Letters of literature: By Robert Heron, Esq.

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LETTERS OF LITERATURE.

BY ROBERT HERON, Eſq.

‘ΓΡΑΜΜΑΤΑ ΜΑΘΕΙΝ ΔΕΙ, ΜΑΘΟΝΤΑ ΔΕ ΝΟΥΝ ΕΧΕΙΝ.’

LONDON, Printed for G. G. J. and J. ROBINSON, in Pater-noſter Row.

MDCCLXXXV.

CONTENTS.

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  • Letter. I. ON barbaric poetry Pag. 1.
  • Letter. II. On fame.— Difference between true and falſe fame.— Faſhionable writers.— Character of a literary ſwindler Pag. 11
  • Letter. III. Eſtimate of the writings of Vavaſſor Pag. 18
  • Letter. IV. Alterations its the Pleaſures of Imagination from the author's MS. remarks on a copy in his own poſſeſſion Pag. 21
  • Letter. V. On the ſpirit of lyric poetry Pag. 33
  • Letter. VI. Character and praiſes of Cato Pag. 38
  • Letter. VII. On comedy Pag. 42.
  • Letter. VIII. On the writings of Petrarch Pag. 51
  • Letter. IX. Diſcuſſion of the queſtion, In what quality does the univerſal and perpetual excellence of writing conſiſt? Pag. 56
  • Letter. X. On two lines of Juvenal Pag. 61
  • Letter. XI. On refinement of language Pag. 63
  • Letter. XII. New explanation of a paſſage in the Hiſtory of Ammianus Marcellinus Pag. 68
  • [Page] Letter. XIII. Benevolence preferable to genius Pag. 69
  • Letter. XIV. Economy always the companion of real genius Pag. 71
  • Letter. XV. Beauties of Hall's Satires Pag. 77
  • Letter. XVI. Diſcuſſion of the merits of Virgil Pag. 91
  • Letter. XVII. Obſervations on the manner in which literary reputation is eſtabliſhed Pag. 98
  • Letter. XVIII. Remarks on the laſt edition of Shakſpere's Plays 1778 Pag. 105
  • Letter. XIX. Some account of the modern lyric poets Pag. 117
  • Letter. XX. The ſubject of the laſt concluded Pag. 126
  • Letter. XXI. On the diviſion of the drama Pag. 133
  • Letter. XXII. On that figure of ſpeech called Utter Abſurdity Pag. 141
  • Letter. XXIII. Diſcuſſion of the merits of Virgil concluded Pag. 144
  • Letter. XXIV. Connection of literature with political buſineſs Pag. 151
  • Letter. XXV. Futility of the notion commonly entertained with regard to the moſt eminent writers flouriſhing in Auguſtan ages Pag. 159
  • Letter. XXVI. Continuation of the Remarks on the laſt edition of Shakſpere 1778 Pag. 162
  • Letter. XXVII. Influence of climate upon genius Pag. 179
  • Letter. XXVIII. On the Memoirs of De Retz Pag. 190
  • Letter. XXIX. On Farce and Pantomime Pag. 193
  • [Page] Letter. XXX. Account of Gravina's celebrated treatiſe Della Ragion Poetica Pag. 205
  • Letter. XXXI. On Truth of Facts and Truth of Nature. Pag. 213
  • Letter. XXXII. Superiority of the modern ſtage and drama to thoſe of the ancients Pag. 220
  • Letter. XXXIII. On the tinſel of Virgil Pag. 232
  • Letter. XXXIV. Notices on the Engliſh tongue. Propoſal for a reform of it, and of the Greek characters Pag. 237
  • Letter. XXXV. Beauties of THE GRAVE, a Poem Pag. 276
  • Letter. XXXVI. How far a poet who draws his ſubject from antiquity ought to be an antiquary Pag. 285
  • Letter. XXXVII. On modern Latin poetry. Praiſe of the Baſia.—Extracts from Caſimir.—Tranſlation of Gray's Alcaic Ode
  • Letter. XXXVIII. Concluſion of the remarks on the laſt edition of Shakſpere 1778 Pag. 301
  • Letter. XXXIX. The connection of luxury with literature Pag. 306
  • Letter. XL. A ſuccinct view of the progreſs of ſcience ſince the publication of Lord Bacon's work On the Advancement of Learning Pag. 324
  • Letter. XLI. On Imitation Pag. 356
  • Letter. XLII. Diſcuſſion of Mr. Gray's character of Hume.—Cenſure of popular ſceptic Pag. 365
  • [Page] Letter. XLIII. On the cauſes and nature of the madneſs of Taſſo Pag. 374
  • Letter. XLIV. On literary forgery Pag. 383
  • Letter. XLV. Eſtimate of the Latin original writers Pag. 387
  • Letter. XLVI. On true end falſe learning Pag. 396
  • Letter. XLVII. On Moral Philoſophy and Social Science Pag. 404
  • Letter. XLVIII. An apology for ſuch paſſages in the Geruſalemme Liberata as may lie under the ſuſpicion of being too figurative Pag. 412
  • Letter. XLIX. On the critical errors of Mr. Addiſon Pag. 420
  • Letter. L. With Rouſſeau's Confeſſions Pag. 429
  • Letter. LI. Incloſing tranſlations of ſome Apologues from Sadi Pag. 432
  • Letter. LII. Conſideration of the merits of the Geruſalemme Liberata Pag. 458
  • Letter. LIII. On literary hypocriſy Pag. 471
  • Letter. LIV. On falſe reputation Pag. 475
  • Letter. LV. Conſideration of the Geruſalemme concluded Pag. 484
  • Letter. LVI. On the ſcale of fame Pag. 501
  • Letter. LVII. On the nature of criticiſin Pag. 506

1. LETTERS OF LITERATURE.

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DEAR SIR,

YOU aſk me by what means it comes to paſs that a rude poetical production of a barbarous age always affects, and pleaſes, the heart more than the moſt finiſhed and artificial effort of a refined compoſer?

TO examine this matter thoroughly might employ much philoſophical reſearch. I ſhall only beg leave to lay before you a few remarks, which may not perhaps have offered themſelves to your enquiries.

[Page 2] IN the firſt place, what do you call a barbarous age, or country? To what period of ſociety may this denomination be properly limited? The Greeks gave this denomination to the Perſians; tho the latter were arrived at more refinement of manners than themſelves. We give it to the Chineſe: the Chineſe with equal propriety to us.

BARBARISM, like every other human accident and quality, muſt be allowed to be merely comparative. If any one ſaid that moſt of the European kingdoms had not yet emerged from barbarity, nay, that the moſt poliſhed of them are yet but barbarcus, every beau of the aera of George I. would ſtroke his chin and ſmile. Yet were all ancient Roman to reviſit this globe, and make a tour to Paris, I have no doubt but he would with great juſtice affirm that the French were very little improved ſince his own days; that their cuſtoms, their dreſs, their luxuries, were barbarous au dernier point. I ſay with juſtice, becauſe, from a comparative view of the Roman manners, every one muſt allow that they were, in the days of their glory, as much ſuperior to the French in luxury, which [Page 3] is always conſidered as the great criterion of refinement, as the French are to the Eſquimaux Indians, Indeed, one cannot help ſmiling when the declamations of writers, and of the clergy in particular, againſt the luxury and refinement of their own ſeveral ages, are conſidered. In the old Engliſh days, when the drawing-rooms of palaces were carpeted with clean ſtraw, and maids of honour breakfaſted on roaſt beef, the pulpits ſhook with virulent invectives againſt pride of furniture, and delicacy of food. What more can be ſaid now, when foreſts are robbed of their muſic for the ſake of the rumps of the nightingales? What more will be ſaid, four centuries after this, when, I will venture to propheſy, luxury and refinement will be in ſuch a ſtate as juſtly to reflect upon this age the appellation of barbarous?

THESE remarks are only made with a view to ſhew the neceſſity of defining what is meant by barbaric poetry before the ſubject is further opened. To the poetry of the modern French, juſt as the above obſervations may be, we ſhould no more think of giving the epithet of barbarous, than to that of the ancient Greeks or Romans.

[Page 4] As in youth moſt people have felt an inclination to write verſes, tho in a more mature age they have loſt that deſire; ſo it is in the youth of ſociety, if I may ſo expreſs myſelf, that poetry has moſt flouriſhed. Now this youth of ſociety is commonly, like that of man, loſt in tempeſtuous paſſions, which call forth extraordinary exertions of mind. Such exertions form the very life and ſoul of poetry. Homer was a witneſs of ſuch emotions as ariſe in a barbarous ſtate of ſociety, ere he recorded them in the Iliad. Violent actions, and ſudden calamities of all kinds, are the certain concomitants of uncivilized life: to theſe we owe a poetry warm, rapid, and impetuous, that, like a large river ſwelling from a bleak mountain, carries the reader along in the barge of fancy, now by vales fragrant with wild flowers, now thro woods reſounding with untaught melody, but moſt generally thro deſerts replete with romantic and with dreadful proſpects.

SOCIETY always paſſes through three different ſtages ere it arrives at refinement. The firſt is the mere ſavage ſtate, during which the lord of the world is almoſt on a level with the [Page 5] brutes themſelves: living like them in caves, or wretched huts, in the woods that ſaw him born, and ſubſiſting on wild fruits, and ſuch prey as his rude invention can ſeize by force or guile. Climate has ſuch power over human happineſs as ſometimes to fix Society in this ſtate without any hope of further progreſs: as for inſtance, in Lapland. The poetry of ſuch a country muſt of courſe be always barbaric. The ſecond ſtage is that of paſtoral life. The third may be conſidered as a kind of middle ſtate between barbariſm and civilization; and is that in which the ſhepherds of the ſecond ſtate begin to confederate together, for defence of themſelves and their flocks, againſt ſuch of their neighbours as are yet in the firſt condition, and who, ignorant of property, would admit of no law but force. For that effect towns are built, and, by the colliſion of different minds, the arts and ſciences begin to be ſtruck out, which are in time to ſpread the light of refinement thro the community.

ALL poetry compoſed in theſe different periods of ſociety may with propriety be termed barbaric; but more particulary that of the firſt [Page 6] and ſecond. The Iliad, if not written during the third, is yet a living picture of its manners: and it is to this, as much as to any other circumſtance, that it owes its wonderful ſuperiority. For no ſtate of ſociety can be ſo intereſting as that in which the ſun of ſcience is beginning to riſe, and diſcover proſpects full of ſplendor and novelty; and in which the mind, vegetating ſtrongly, begins from a vigorous ſtem to diſplay the buds of elegance.

AS in this ſtage of ſociety poetry may be carried to the higheſt perfection, ſo the two firſt do not impede its real influence: for what it wants in art, in elegance, in harmony, is fully compenſated by a wild force of nature, by a ſimplicity, by a pathos to which every heart is in uniſon; attributes no leſs declarative of the power of poetry than the former. Love, a paſſion of every age and climate, imparts his tenderneſs even to the ſavage breaſt amid the ſnows of Lapland, as we may perceive from the ſongs preſerved by Scheffer, which you ſo much admire; and which may be compared to the roſes that grow wild, as Mr. Maupertuis informs us, on the banks of the rivers and lakes of that dreary country.

[Page 7] FROM what I have written, you will no doubt ſee that I am ſtill the ſame ſceptic in moſt matters that you left me; thinking always, ways, with Sir Roger de Coverley, that "much may be ſaid on both ſides:" ſo that, if you wiſh to have an opinion on any ſubject, you will be much diſappointed if you apply to me; but, if you deſire to hear doubts inſtead of deciſions, I may perhaps furniſh you with a ſufficiency.

AS I know your fondneſs for ſuch pieces of rude poetry as have intrinſic merit, I ſubjoin two that may not perhaps have lain in your way.

THE firſt is extracted from a Hiſtory of the Canary Iſlands by Captain Glas; and is one of the moſt exquiſite pieces of elegiac poetry which I have ever met with. In the year 1418, you muſt know, Guillen Peraza, an enterprizing youth, was Governor of the Canary Iſlands; but attempting to reduce Palma, one of them, to the power of Spain, he was there killed. The following verſes were made on that occaſion, and, as our author informs us, are repeated [Page 8] in Palma to this day: which I do not wonder at, as every one who hears them muſt wiſh to remember them; and the heart muſt be hard indeed, that is not affected by their deep pathos. There is a bit of a pun however in the ſecond ſtanza, which to underſtand you muſt remember that Palma ſignifies a palm-tree. As perhaps, to uſe a royal metaphor, your Spaniſh may be ruſty, I ſhall ſubjoin a proſe tranſlation as literal as poſſible.

Llorad las damas,
Aſſi Dios os vala,
Guillen Peraza;
Quedo, en la Palma,
La flor marchita
De la ſu cara.
No eres Palma;
Eres retama:
Eres cypres
De triſte rama:
Eres deſdicha;
Deſdicha mala.
Tus campos rompan
Triſtes volcanos.
No vean plazeres
Sino peſares.
Cubran tus flores
Las arenales.
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Guillen Peraza!
Guillen Peraza!
Do eſta tu eſcudo?
Do eſta tu lanza?
Todo la acaba
La mala adanza!

‘Let the ladies lament Guillen Peraza, as God ſhall help them in their miſeries, for in Palma the flower left his cheek.’

‘Thou fatal iſle, art not Palma, a name ſignificant of victory and joy; thou art a bramble; thou art a cypreſs of melancholy branch; thou art a misfortune, a dreadful evil.’

‘Let diſmal volcanos burſt thy fields. Let no pleaſures be ſeen there: but ſorrows. Let ſands cover all thy flowers.’

‘Guillen Peraza! Guillen Peraza! Where is thy ſhield? Where is thy ſpear? A fatal raſhneſs deſtroyed all!’

THE ſecond has not been publiſhed ſo far as I know. It is an Indian ſong, tranſlated by John Nettles, a Cataba Indian, who learned Engliſh at the ſchool founded by Sir Robert Boyle, at Williamſburg.

[Page 8] [...] [Page 9] [...]

[Page 10] ‘I was walking thro the ſhade of the grove in the morning dew. I met my fancy. She talked with her ſmiling lips to me. I gave her no anſwer. She told me to ſpeak out my mind. Baſhful face ſpoils good intent. That cleared up my heart. But when my love is gone from my ſide, my heart faints and is low.’

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INdifference for fame is by no means to be regarded as a virtue. If deſire of praiſe be a vice, it is a vice that is the author of many virtues; and we are glad to have rich grain, tho we uſe dung to produce it.

AT the ſame time I perfectly agree with you that common and univerſal applauſe is in the eyes of a man of wiſdom, or even of true taſte, a matter not to be wiſhed. The praiſe of one fool or knave we ſhould be aſhamed of; ſurely then we ought infinitely more to deſpiſe that of an innumerable multitude of both. If a man has vanity, his vanity itſelf ought to be rather offended than pleaſed at the incenſe ariſing from the flowers of ſuch weeds: even his vanity ſhould have a better taſte, as Mr. Gray expresses it.

[Page 12] 'Praiſe,' ſays Lord Bacon, ‘is the reflection of virtue: but it is as the glaſs, or body, which giveth the reflection. If it be from the common people, it is commonly falſe and naught; and rather followeth vain perſons than virtuous. For the common people underſtand not many excellent virtues: the loweſt virtues draw praiſe from them; the middle virtues excite in them aſtoniſhment or admiration; but of the higheſt virtues they have no ſenſe or perceiving at all; but ſhews, and ſpecies virtutibus ſimiles, ſerve beſt with them. Certainly fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and ſwollen, and drowns things weighty and ſolid: but, if perſons of quality and judgement concur, then it is (as the Scripture ſaith) Nomen bonum inſtar unguenti fragrantis. It filleth all round about, and will not eaſily away: for the odours of ointments are more durable than thoſe of flowers.’

So far this excellent writer, upon whoſe eſtimate of fame ſome ill-natured reader may perhaps make this cenſure, that, if Lord Bacon had held popular applauſe in more reverence, [Page 13] he might have had at leaſt one ſtrong motive not to degrade his high office by the acceptance of a bribe. It may however be remarked upon the above quotation, with more juſtice, that by perſons of quality the great chancellor muſt mean perſons whoſe quality lies in their mind; not our mob of perſons of quality, who are moſt commonly, if you will excuſe a pun, perſons of no quality at all.

INDIFFERENCE for vulgar fame therefore you will do well to diſcriminate from indifference for genuine praiſe of the true flavour. The former certainly belongs to a mind that can ſtand upon its own baſis without the props of adventitious opinions. The latter, I will be bold to ſay, is the parent of every vice. What will the world ſay? is a reflection that has ſtifled many a bad inclination in the breaſts of thoſe who are either above, or below, every other motive. Want of ſhame, and total profligacy, follow like a flood if you remove this bank, which excluded them. It is true, this principle has done as much harm as good in the world; a falſe reſpect for the opinion of others having deſtroyed many a virtue, becauſe [Page 14] it did not happen at that time to float upon the ſtream of faſhion. Such effect has falſe fame upon a little mind: and the force of the true upon a large ſoul is yet more ſtrong. The praiſe of the few ſwells and invigorates it to its moſt complete perfection, at the ſame time that it ſhrinks from multitudinous glory.

For what is glory but the blaze of fame,
The people's praiſe, if always praiſe unmixt?
And that the people but a herd confuſed,
A miſcellaneous rabble, who extol
Things ſingular; and, well weigh'd, ſcarce worth the praiſe.
They praiſe, and they admire, they know not what,
And know not when; but as one leads the other.
And what delight to be by ſuch extoll'd,
To live upon their tongues, and be their talk,
Of whom to be deſpiſed were no ſmall praiſe?
His lot who dares be ſingularly good.
Milt. Par. Reg.

AN author in particular, who has any regard for his fame, ſhould beware of building it upon ſuch a ſandy foundation as the applauſe of the mob. The popular gale, as Horace phraſes it, is eternally veering: but in no clime does it [Page 15] vary more than in that of literature. Faſhion, after exerting her power upon moſt other ſubjects, has at laſt choſen literary reputation to diſplay the utmoſt caprices of her ſway. Sometimes it happens wonderfully that ſhe blunders right; but moſt commonly her favours are unworthily beſtowed. Theſe faſhionable ſcriblers, who are now ſo common, are however by no means to be envied, for, in the courſe of a year, of a month, of a day, the public may ſee the deception; and, as it happens when we treat a ſtranger with reſpect who, we afterwards find, deſerves our ſcorn, their warmeſt admirers moſt frequently revenge the inſult, they have themſelves impoſed on their own underſtandings, by commencing their bittereſt enemies.

THERE is a grievance juſt now reigning in this capital, of which you in the country can ſcarcely have an idea. After being bleſt with a variety of ſwindlers in all occupations, we have at laſt got literary ſwindlers: people who ſteal reputation in order to ſteal money. As the character muſt be new to you, I will give you ſome outlines of it.

[Page 16] A LITERARY ſwindler is a ſcribler who regards fame as only a road to the temple of wealth; of conſequence, ſo he can get what is here called reputation, he cares not by what means. His firſt ſtep is to form an intimacy with the printers of newſpapers, of magazines, of reviews, and other periodical works. Thro theſe channels he gravely communicates to the public what are here emphatically denominated puffs, or praiſes of himſelf and his writings, the more bombaſtic the better. Thoſe who know the trick laugh at his effrontery: but as they are but few, in compariſon of the others, he minds not their deriſion. The mob, who know nothing of the matter, ſtare, and wonder they have not heard of ſuch a celebrated writer. Every one, not to appear ignorant, whether he has read the work puffed, or not, calls it admirable; tho, were he to truſt his own judgement, he would call it the ſillieſt nonſenſe that ever fell from a gooſe's quill. The ſcribler in the mean time goes on puffing as faſt as he can; writes anecdotes of himſelf; ſends letters from the country telling of his being ſo happy as to be in the company of himſelf, and what a modeſt and wonderful [Page 17] man he himſelf is. At length by theſe, and ſuch tricks, he gets what is called a reputation; and perhaps makes a fortune by it, ere the knavery is revealed.

No conſideration can make a man of reflection more deaf to popular approbation, than the view of ſuch a charmer as the above. He will perceive that the fame he purſued, as a chaſte bride, is no better than a common proſtitute; and abandon the ſuit with ſcorn and indignation.

[Page 18]

HAD you peruſed the work of Vavaſſor, you would ceaſe to wonder at your friend's taking no notice of him in his Eſſay on Ludicrous Compoſition. His book De Dictione Ludicra, which you think muſt abound with curious matter, is the moſt vapid performance you can imagine. You likeways miſtake its intention. It is written to prove that the ancients either knew nothing of, or elſe deſpiſed, ludicrous writing; and what do you think is the conſequence he derives from this diſcovery which his half-learning enabled him to make? Why to be ſure that we, the poor moderns, muſt not pretend to feaſt on more luxurious things than our elders; and muſt look on a way of writing, unknown to them, as forbidden to us. Ah lepidum caput! His book De Epigrammate is of the fame ſtuff. The one half of it is filled with invectives, truly jeſuitical, againſt ſome Collector of Epigrams, becauſe, as would appear, he did not think any [Page 19] of Vavaſſor's Epigrams worthy a place in his work. However, he afterwards gives his antagoniſt ample revenge, by preſenting us with his own epigrams, in three books; among all which there is not one that will bear reading twice, or indeed once if one could judge of them at firſt ſight.

Such are the works of Vavaſſor, who has written on ſubjects of elegance without taſte, and on ſubjects of curioſity without intereſting, nay, I may add, on ſubjects of erudition without learning.

WHAT muſt we think of an author whoſe works, inſtead of advancing knowlege, would confine it? whoſe arguments, if extended, prove, that we muſt not uſe gun-powder becauſe unknown at the battle of Marathon; nor printing, becauſe Cicero does not mention it?

YET ſuch a writer has had his admirers among his countrymen; for, according to one of their own prophets,

‘Un ſot trouve toujours un plus ſot qui l'admire.’

[Page 20] I ENTIRELY agree with you, that Boſſu, and the other French critics, whom Addiſon followed with blind adoration, cannot be held in too ſovereign contempt. How miſtaken a critic that fine writer was, may merit diſcuſſion on another occaſion.

[Page 21]

AS I know that Akenſide's work on the Pleaſures of Imagination is deſervedly one of your moſt favorite poems, I ſend you incloſed what, I have no doubt, you will ſet a due value on; no leſs than a copy of all the corrections he made with his own hand on that Poem. They were inſerted in the margin of the Doctor's printed copy, which afterwards paſſed into the hands of a gentleman, from a friend of whom, and of my own, a very ingenious young Templar, I received them. At what time they were written I cannot pretend to ſay, much leſs to reveal the author's reaſons for not giving an edition according to them. Moſt of them are evidently much for the better; one or two, I am afraid, for the worſe. You will obſerve that a few of them have been adopted by the author in his propoſed alteration of the Poem; as appears from the two books, and part of the third, of that alteration, publiſhed by Mr. Dyſon in his edition of Akenſide's [Page 22] Poems, 1772, 4to. but far the greater part is unpubliſhed; and that the mot valuable, as being evidently written ere the author had taken up the ſtrange idea that poetry was only perfect oratory. So that I will venture to ſay, that an edition of The Pleaſures of Imagination, adopting moſt of theſe corrections, would be the moſt perfect ever yet known. Read and judge.

1.4.1.

1.4.1.1. BOOK I.

Argument. Eraſe the words, or wonderfulneſs: and the ſentence, Pleaſure from novelty or wonderfulneſs with its final cauſe.

Verſe I. for attractive, read prevailing.

Verſe 28. for finer, read nobler.

Verſe 29. for bloom, read pomp.

Verſe 30. for gayeſt, happieſt, read faireſt, loftieſt.

Verſe 44, 45. for labour court my ſong; Yet, read argument invite Me.

Verſe 72. for ſmile, read deed.

Verſe 94. eraſe theſe words, or what the beams of morn Draw forth, diſtilling from the clifted rind In balmy tears.

Verſe 106. Eraſe this line, ‘That uncreated beauty which delights.’ [Page 23] and inſert theſe,

As far as mortal eyes the portrait ſcan,
Theſe lineaments of beauty which delight.

Verſe 109—132. read as follows:

As Memnon's marble form, renown'd of old
By fabling Nilus, at the potent touch
Of Morning utter'd from its inmoſt frame
Unbidden muſic; ſo hath Nature's hand
To certain ſpecies of external things
Attuned the finer organs of the mind:
So the glad impulſe of congenial powers,
Or of ſweet ſound, or fair proportion'd form,
The grace of motion, or the pomp of light,
Shoots thro imagination's tender frame;
Thro every naked nerve; till all the ſoul
To that harmonious movement now reſigns
Her functions. Then the inexpreſſive ſtrain
Diffuſeth its enchantment. Fancy dreams,
Rapt into high diſcourſe with ſainted bards,
And wandering thro Elyſium, fancy dreams
Of myſtic fountains, and inſpiring groves;
Fountains the haunt of Orpheus; happy groves
Where Milton dwells. The intellectual power
Bends from his ſolemn throne a wondering ear
And ſmiles. The paſſions to divine repoſe
Perſuaded yield: and love and joy alone
Are waking; love and joy, ſuch as await
An angel's meditation. O! attend, &c.

[Page 24] Verſe 133. for touch, read move.

Verſe 134. for the refining love, read this primoeval love.

Verſe 136. for favourite, read holieſt.

Verſe 138. for lovelieſt, read awful.

Verſe 139. for pregnant ſtores, read copious frame.

Verſe 143. for To three illuſtrious orders, &c. to verſe 146, read;

To two illuſtrious orders ſtill refer
Self-taught. From him, whoſe ruſtic toil the lark
Chears warbling; to the bard, whoſe mighty mind
Graſps the full orb of being; ſtill the form
Which fancy worſhips, or ſublime, or fair,
Their eager tongues proclaim. I ſee them dawn, &c.

157. 158. for

—run
The great career of juſtice.
read
—act
The great decrees.

168. for That, read Which.

169—172. read thus:

And mocks poſſeſſion? Why departs the ſoul
Wide from the track and journey of her times
To graſp the good ſhe knows not? In the field
Of things which may be, in the ſpacious field
Of ſcience, potent arts, or dreadful arms,
To raiſe up ſcenes in which her own deſires
[Page 25] Contented may repoſe; when things which are
Pall on her temper, like a twice told tale:
Her temper ſtill demanding to be free;
Spurning the groſs, —c.

Verſe 177. for Alpine, read mid-air.

179. for rowling his bright wave, read rowl his glittering tide.

183. for That, read Which.

195. for far effus'd, read ſallying forth.

197. for through, read round.

222—270. This whole paragraph to be inſerted after verſe 278, Book III.

337. for young, read fond.

338. for the, read your.

358. for Th' indulgent mother, read The gracious parent.

361. for Still, read There.

362. for native, read proper.

363. for Illumes, read Directs.

364. for

The generous glebe,
Whoſe boſom ſmiles with verdure,
read,
— The glow of flowers,
Which gild the verdant paſture.

366. for nectar'd, read downey.

[Page 26] Verſe 387. for Nor let the gleam, &c. to verſe 402. read thus,

Nor be the hopes,
Which flatter youthful boſoms, here appall'd.
Nor let falſe terrors urge you to renounce
This awful theme of undeceitful good,
And truth eternal. Tho th' abhorred threats
Of ſacred ſuperſtition, in the queſt
Of that kind pair conſtrain her kneeling ſlave
To quench, and ſet at nought, the lamp of God
Within his frame: thro deſarts, thorns, and mire,
Tho forth ſhe lead him, credulous, and dark,
And aw'd with dubious notion, tho at length
Benighted, terrified, afflicted, loſt,
She leave him to converſe with cells, and graves,
And ſhapes of death; to liſten all alone,
And, by the ſcreaming owl's accurſed ſong,
To watch the dreadful workings of his heart;
Or talk with ſpectres on eternal woe;
Yet be not you diſmayed. A gentler ſtar
Your lovely ſearch enlightens. From the grove, &c.

403. for talk'd, read ſate.

413. for harmonious, read perſuaſive.

431-437.

Which conquers chance and fate; or whether tuned
For triumph, on the ſummit to proclaim
Her toils; around her brow to twine the wreath
[Page 27] Of everlaſting praiſe; thro future worlds
To follow her interminated way.

440. for,

Whether in vaſt majeſtic pomp array'd,
Or dreſt for pleaſing wonder, or ſerene
In beauty's roſy ſmile.
read,
When majeſty arrays her, and when deck'd
By beauty and by love.

Verſe 459. for pregnant, read copious.

Verſe 460. for the bounteous, read their parent.

Verſe 461—464. read thus,

— ſuch the flowers,
With which young Maia for her genial ſong
Rewards the village maid; and ſuch the trees,
Which blith Pomona rears on Severn's bank
To feed the bowl of Ariconian ſwains,
Who quaff beneath her branches. Lovelier ſtill, &c.

474. for, There moſt conſpicuous even in outward ſhape. read, There in eternal things conſpicuous moſt.

476. for conducting, read directing.

487. for range, read path.

534. for congenial, read paternal.

[Page 28] Verſe 559—563. read,

Of harmony and wonder. Different far
She ſtarts indignant on the patriot's eye
Among the ſervile herd: her nervous hand
Points as ſhe turns the record, and appeals
To ancient honour; or in act, &c.

568. for the ſacred, read untrodden.

570. for, Of all heroic deeds, and fair deſires. read, Of generous counſels, of heroic deeds.

575—585. read as follows,

Which Heſper ſheds along the vernal heaven;
If I from Superſtition's gloomy haunts
Impatient ſteal, and from th' unſeemly rites
Of barbarous domination, to attend
With hymns thy preſence in the lonely ſhades,
By their malignant footſteps unprofaned.
Deſcend, O famous Power, thy glowing mien
Such, and ſo elevated all thy form,
As when the great barbarian foiled again,
And yet again diminiſhed, hid his face
Among the herd of ſatraps, and of kings;
And at the lightning, &c.

589. for heroic, read unconquer'd.

595. for blooming, read ſacred.

598. for flight, read meed.

[Page 29] Verſe 599. for plume, read toil.

601. for, Thy name, thrice honour'd! with th'immortal praiſe. read, Thy kindred name to no ignoble praiſe.

602. for Nature, read Beauty.

1.4.1.2. BOOK II.

57. for haughty, read jealous.

58. for harmonious, read bleſſed.

75. for, To raiſe harmonious Fancy's native charm. read, To raiſe enamour'd Fancy's native joy.

98, 99. for,

Her awful light diſcloſes to beſtow
A more majeſtic pomp on beauty's ſame?
read,
Her awful front unveils to raiſe the ſcene,
And adds to beauty honours not her own?

116. for courſe, read flight.

210. for baleful charms, read unbleſt pomps.

212. for Gracious, read Righteous.

223. for, A purple cloud came floating thro the ſky. read, Came floating thro the ſky a purple cloud.

[Page 30] Verſe 225. for ſoft'ning ſorrow, of; read, generous pity, or.

275. for hills, read cliffs.

276. for cliff, read heath.

277, for recumbent, read incumbent.

282, 283. for,

Remurmuring ruſh'd the congregated floods
With hoarſer inundation.
read,
More ponderous ruſh'd the congregated floods,
And louder ſtill reſounded.

365. for freſh water'd, read irriguous.

477. for joys, read hopes.

599. for Nature calls, read God commands.

663. for pictures, read phantoms.

664. for, When ſunſhine fills the bed. read,

When ſunſhine ruſhes on the brow of ſleep,
And fills the curtain'd ſpace.

769. for, Defiled to ſuch a depth of ſordid ſhame. read, To ſuch a baſeneſs have not yet depraved.

1.4.1.3. BOOK III.
[Page 31]

Argument. After the ſentence, Final cauſe of the ſenſe of ridicule, inſert, The pleaſure from novelty with its final cauſe.

Verſe 7, 8, 9. read thus,

With charms reſiſtleſs. Not the ſpacious weſt,
Nor all the teeming regions of the ſouth
Contain a quarry, &c.

27. for lovely, read pleaſing.

59. for The wicked bear, read Which guilt endures.

72. for, ‘I ſing of Nature's charms, and touch well-pleas'd.’ read, ‘I ſing of good and fair, touching well-pleas'd.’

75. for aukward arts, read arts abound.

96. for Some, read This.

98. for Some, read This.

278. Here inſert the paragraph B. I. v. 222.

365. for ſeeds, read works.

366. for attemper'd, read imprinted.

383. for lovelieſt, read pleaſing.

384. for rowls his daring eye, read darts his ſearching eye.

387. for Flit ſwift, read Proceed.

[Page 32] Verſe 389. for Diſcloſe, read Reveal.

403. for blue ſerene, read azure vault.

436. for warbled, read holy.

503. for, ‘Than ſpace, or motion, or eternal time.’ read, ‘Than his own eſſence, or eſſential powers.’

516. for feelingly, read tenderly.

552. for furious, read frantic.

576. for the only few, read what tho but few.

587. for,

Diſtills her dews, and from the ſilken gem
Its lucid leaves unfolds.
read,
Unlocks her gems, and from the ſpreading leaves
Throws her light incenſe round.

626. to the end, read as follows:

He meant, he made us to regard and love
What he regards and loves; the life and health
Of general nature; to do good like him
To every being round us. Thus the men,
Whom Nature's frame delights, with God himſelf
Hold daily converſe; act upon his plan;
And form to his the reliſh of their ſouls.

[Page 33]

IT is no incurious ſubject to enquire, what is the ſpirit of lyric poetry? Or, in what does its diſcrimination from other kinds of poetry conſiſt? Thoſe who have even pretended to write in this ſtyle have often betrayed perfect ignorance of the very principles of ſo exquiſite a mode of compoſition.

THE Greeks, the Greeks alone, my friend, are the maſters; and their works the models of this kind of poetry. If we examine theſe models with care, we ſhall perceive that this ſpecies of poetry divides itſelf, in reſemblance of the works of nature, into two kinds, the ſublime, and the beautiful. In the firſt claſs Pindar ſtood without a rival till Gray appeared. In the ſecond Anacreon and Sappho ſtill remain without equal competitors.

[Page 34] FROM theſe writers, therefore, the genuine ſpirit of lyric poetry may be diſcovered. From Pindar we learn that ſudden tranſitions, bold and abrupt metaphors, a regular cadence, and a warm and impetuous glow of thought and language, ‘Thoughts that breathe, and words that burn,’ are eſſentials of the higher mode of lyric writing. I place a regular cadence among theſe requiſites in ſpire of Dryden's wonderful ode; which is of itſelf worth all that Pindar has written, as a large diamond is worth a vaſt heap of gold, becauſe that maſter-piece is a dithyrambic poem, not a lyric one. And that as well for its want of regularity, as for [...]ts ſubject, which, being perfectly convivial as its title ſpeaks, falls with much propriety into that claſs which the ancients called dithyrambic, and which were moſt commonly ſacred to Bacchus.

IN the ſecond diviſion of lyric poetry the eſſentials are leſs eaſily fixed. Harmony of cadence, and beauty and warmth of ſentiment, paſſion, and expreſſion, ſeem the principal. Above all, uncommon elegance in turns of [Page 35] language, and in tranſition, are ſo vital to this kind of lyric poetry in particular, that I will venture to ſay they conſtitute its very ſoul; a particular that none of our lyric writers, before Gray; at all attended to. His mode of expreſſion is truly lyrical; and has a claſſic brevity and terſeneſs, formerly unknown in Engliſh, ſave to Milton alone. Of which to produce a few inſtances from his very firſt Ode: purple year, for flowers of Spring: inſect youth, for young inſects: honied ſpring, for honey of ſpring: liquid noon, for liquid air of noon, with many others, are all modes of expreſſion of the genuine and uncommon lyric hue.

HUME has well obſerved, in his Eſſay on Simplicity and Reſinement, that ‘no criticiſm can be inſtructive which deſcends not to particulars, and is not full of examples and illuſtrations.’ It may be added to this very juſt remark, that the more minute criticiſm is, the more need it has of example, to give a kind of body to its evaneſcence. For this reaſon, ſince I have ſpoken of tranſition as ſo material a form of the ode, I ſhall beg leave to conſider a moment one of the beſt in any language with [Page 36] regard to this beauty in particular, namely Dr. Beattie's Ode on Lord Hay's birth-day: a production which that ſupreme judge of lyric poetry, Mr. Gray, praiſes with great juſtice for the lyric texture of the thoughts.

THE opening of this fine piece is however unhappy. A Muſe for a poet is a violent and bad metaphor. The Muſe in any good modern writer only means Poeſy perſonified by another name. A Muſe unſtained is worſe. Unſtained is an inelegant epithet even when applied in its proper ſenſe to garments, &c. as it gives an idea that they might have been ſtained. Unſtained with art is a mixed metaphor, one of the worſt faults of compoſition: but, leaving thoſe painful remarks, theſe lines,

No gaudy wreath of flowers ſhe weaves,
But twines with oak the laurel leaves
Thy cradle to adorn,
are exquiſite: the civic crown being of oak, the victor's of laurel. The image is beautiful to a degree of lyric perfection. But obſerve the tranſition to the next ſtanza, and pronounce it truly lyric:
For not on beds of gaudy flowers
Thine anceſtors reclined, &c.
[Page 37] This tranſition in proſe were ridiculous; for what connexion between not giving a child a wreath of flowers, and the reaſon aſſigned, namely, becauſe his anceſtors did not recline on them? Yet this want of connexion forms the beauty of this very lyric tranſition.

THE next 'To hurl the dart,' &c. may be called a tranſition from a diſtance as the laſt was to a diſtance. It is equally claſſic with the former.

IN the 4th ſtanza the Muſe is as happily introduced as ſhe was unhappily brought in at firſt. It would require too much length to diſplay the reſt of the tranſitions in this ode, which are all of them fine; but none more ſo than that in this ſtanza, 'Yon caſtle's glittering towers', &c. which brings the very object before your eyes.

As ſuch microſcopic parts of criticiſm are rather fatiguing to the mental eye, I ſhall here conclude with aſſuring you, tho perhaps with a lyric tranſition in proſe, that I am very truly, &c.

[Page 38]

I AGREE with you that the life of the latter Cato would, if executed with a pen worthy of it, prove one of the nobleſt pieces of biography extant: not to mention the public benefit that might be derived from it in theſe our evil days; days in which a remote found of the applauſe reaped by patriot virtue has hardly reached our ears.

OF all the great characters of antiquity, few equal, none exceed, that of Cato. The vaſtneſs, the force of his mind, are only to be rivalled by its regular conſiſtency; a conſiſtency that makes all his a actions appear of a piece; a beauty, if I may ſo expreſs myſelf, rarely to be obſerved in the portraits of heroes; many of whom ſeem to have fallen as ſhort of common exertion in ſome paſſages of their lives, as they exceeded it in others. How little, how mean, how trifling the character of Cicero when oppoſed to ſuch a model! The very firſt ſtorm of public outrage tore his feeble [Page 39] patriotiſm up by the roots; while the ſtrong virtue of Cato, like a mountain oak, received freſh vigor from the utmoſt rage of the tempeſt.

THEY who peruſe the Familiar Letters of Cicero will find that orator, malapert and various as he is, uniform in his reſpect and almoſt adoration of Cato. Such was the power of real dignity of mind over fancy and loquacious eloquence! Theſe letters are enriched by the preſervation of one of Cato, being the only compoſition of his that has reached us; and which ſhews us clearly that his ſoul, ſolid as diamond, was brightened with politeneſs. Even friendſhip, that greateſt ſnare of a lofty mind, could not influence him againſt the conſiſtent plan of his virtue; yet his refuſal to act againſt his real ſentiments has nothing harſh, but is given at the ſame time with a firmneſs that leaves nothing to hope, and with a mildneſs that leaves nothing to cenſure.

SPIRIT of Cato, what muſt be thy indignation if thou perceiveſt the degeneracy of a country in which Hampden lied Ruſſel have bled!

[Page 40] IT is remarkable that three of the beſt Roman poets have, as it were, vied with each other, who ſhould moſt elevate the character of Cato. Virgil and Horace, tho the minions of a court whoſe frame was cemented with the blood of that patriot, have almoſt excelled their common expreſſion in his praiſe. The firſt in the Eneid, where his hero finds Cato in Elyſium giving laws to the good; ‘— His dantem jura Catonem.’ The ſecond in his odes;

Et cuncta terrarum ſubacta,
Praeter atrocem animum Catonis.

But Lucan, above all, has riſen to the actual ſublime, fired by the contemplation of that ſublime character,

‘Victrix cauſa deis placuit: ſed vita Catoni.’

To which of the poets is the preeminence due? Virgil's praiſe is wonderfully fine at firſt ſight; for how good, how juſt, how virtuous, muſt he be, who is qualified to give laws to the good, to the juſt, to the virtuous, in Elyſium itſelf? But, like the other beauties of this writer, it will not bear a cloſe examination. [Page 41] For what laws are to operate among the bleſſed, where there can be no puniſhment nor reward? How can they receive laws, who are emancipated from all poſſibility of crime? The praiſe is therefore futile and ridiculous; nothing being more abſurd than to erect a column of apparent ſublimity upon the moraſs of falſehood.

THE praiſe of Horace has great truth and dignity. Every thing on earth, in ſubjection to Caeſar ſave the mind of Cato, is a great, a vaſt thought, and would even ariſe to the ſublime, were it not for that of Lucan, which exceeds it; and nothing can be ſublime to which a ſuperior conception may be found.

THE praiſe of Lucan is ſublimity itſelf, for no human idea can go beyond it. Cato is ſet in oppoſition to the gods themſelves: nay is made ſuperior in juſtice, tho not in power. Now the power of the pagan deities may be called their extrinſic, juſtice their intrinſic, virtue. Cato excelled them, ſays Lucan, in real virtue, tho their adventitious attribute of power admitted no rival.

[Page 42]

YOUR opinion of the comedy of Le Mechant I heartily ſubſcribe to, tho Mr. Gray has pronounced it the beſt comedy he ever read. It is perfectly in the ſtyle of the French tragedy, inactive, and declamatory. Yet I do not wonder at Mr. Gray's favourable opinion of it, when he admired the ſilly declamation of Racine ſo much as to begin a tragedy in his very manner; which however he was ſo fortunate as not to go thro with.

OUR ſtage, thank heaven, refuſes the inſipidity of the French drama; and requires an action, a buſineſs, a vigor, to which the run of Gerontes and Damons, which all their comedies are, ſtuffed with, are mere ſtrangers. Moliere, in attempting to introduce laughter into the French comedy, has blundered upon mere farce; for it is the character of that nation always to be in extremes. In ſhort, if w [...] except Fontaine, I know of no writer in the [Page 43] French language who has real claim to poetical merit. Their language is not the language of verſe; nor are their thoughts, or their coſtume, thoſe of poetry. Fontaine uſes their language familiarly, in which way only it can be uſed to advantage. His thoughts are likewiſe in the ſtyle of mere familiar humour. Comic tales may be well written in French, but nothing elſe. Their proſe writers, I readily allow, yield to none in the world; but of their poetry the bon mot ſaid by one of themſelves to Voltaire, which was, Les François n'ont pas la tete epique, may be with great juſtice enlarged thus, LES FRANCcedil;OIS N'ONT PAS LA TETE POETIQUE.

IN Engliſh comedy Congreve, I believe, ſtands without a rival. His plots have great depth and art; perhaps too much: his characters are new and ſtrong: his wit genuine; and ſo exuberant, that it has been alleged as his only fault, that he makes all his characters inherit his own wit. Yet this fault will not be imputed by adepts, who know that the dialogue of our comedy cannot poſſibly be too ſpirited and epigrammatic, for it requires language as well as characters ſtronger than nature.

[Page 44] SHAKSPERE excells in the ſtrength of his characters and in wit; but as plot muſt be regarded as an eſſential of good comedy, he muſt not be erected as a model in the comic academy; a loſs ſufficiently compenſated by the reflection, that it were vain to place him as a model whoſe beauties tranſcend all imitation.

TRAGEDY and Comedy both ought certainly to approach as near the truth of life as poſſible; in ſo much that we may imagine we are placed with Le Diable Boiteux on the roof of the houſe, and perceive what paſſes within. This rule in Tragedy cannot be too ſtrictly obſerved, tho it has eſcaped almoſt every writer of modern Tragedy; the characters of which ſpeak ſimilies, bombaſt, and every thing except the language of real life; ſo that we are eternally tempted to exclaim, as Falſtaff does to Piſtol, 'Pr'ythee ſpeak like a man of this world'.

In comedy this rule ought by no means to be adhered to; as inſipidity is the worſt fault writing can have, but particularly comedy; whoſe chief quality it is to be poignant. Now poignancy cannot be effected without ſtrong character; but an excellent tragedy may be [Page 45] written without a ſtrong character in it, witneſs Douglas. The characters of Tragedy therefore cannot have too much truth: but thoſe of Comedy ought to reſemble the painted ſcenes, which, if examined too nearly, are mere daubings; but at a proper diſtance have the very truth of nature, while the beauties of more delicate paintings would not be perceived.

SENTIMENTAL Comedy, as it is called, tho of late birth in England, is yet the comedy of Menander and of Terence. Terence is quite full of ſentiment, and of a tenderneſs which accompanies it; and ſo barren of wit and humour, that I only remember two paſſages in its fix comedies that provoke a ſmile; for a ſmile is all they can provoke. The one is that ſcene which paſſes after the eunuch is ſuppoſed to have raviſhed a young lady. This is the only proof of the humour of Terence: and the only ſample of his wit we have in the reply of an old miſer to one who he expected brought him tidings of a legacy, but who inſtead thereof makes very gravely a moral obſervation to the impatient old man, who peeviſhly retorts, "What! haſt thou brought nothing [...]here but one maxim?"

[Page 46] SENTIMENTAL Comedy bore a very ſhort ſway in England. Indeed it was incompatible with the humour of an Engliſh audience, who go to a comedy to laugh, and not to cry. It was even more abſurd, it may be added, in its faults than that of which Congreve is the model; for ſentiments were ſpoken by every character in the piece, whereas one ſentimental character was ſurely enough. If a man met with his miſtreſs, or left her; if he was ſuddenly favoured by fortune, or ſuddenly the object of her hatred; if he was drunk, or married; he ſpoke a ſentiment: if a lady was angry, or pleaſed; in love, or out of it; a prude, or a coquet; make room for a ſentiment! If a ſervant girl was chid, or received a preſent from her miſtreſs; if a valet received a purſe, or a horſewhipping; good heavens, what a fine ſentiment!

THIS fault I ſay was infinitely more abſurd than that of Congreve; for a peaſant may blunder on wit, to whoſe mind ſentiment is totally heterogeneous. Beſides, Congreve's wi [...] is all his own; whereas moſt of the ſaid ſentiments may be found in the Proverbs of Solomon,

[Page 47] No wonder then this way of writing was ſoon abandoned even by him who was its chief leader. Goldſmith in vain tried to ſtem the torrent by oppoſing a barrier of low humour, and dullneſs and abſurdity, more dull and abſurd than Engliſh ſentimental Comedy itſelf.

IT is very much to the credit of that excellent writer Mr. Colman, that, while other dramatiſts were loſt in the faſhion of ſentiment, his comedies always preſent the happieſt medium of nature; without either affectation of ſentiment, or affectation of wit. That the able tranſlator of Terence ſhould yet have ſufficient force of mind to keep his own pieces clear of the declamatory dullneſs of that ancient, is certainly a matter deſerving of much applauſe. The Jealous Wife, and the Clandeſtine Marriage, with others of his numerous dramas, may be mentioned as the moſt perfect models of comedy we have: to all the other requiſites of fine comic writing they always add juſt as much ſentiment and wit as does them good. This happy medium is the moſt difficult to hit in all compoſition, and moſt declares the hand of a maſter.

[Page 48] BY the School for Scandal the ſtyle of Congreve was again brought into faſhion; and ſentiment made way for wit, and delicate humour. That piece has indeed the beauties of Congreve's comedies, without their faults: its plot is deeply enough perplexed, without forcing one to labour to unravel it; its incidents ſufficient, without being too numerous; its wit pure; its ſituations truly dramatic. The characters however are not quite ſo ſtrong as Congreve's; which may be regarded as the principal fault of this excellent piece. Leſſer faults are Charles's ſometimes blundering upon ſentiments; nay ſometimes upon what are the worſt of all ſentiments, ſuch as are of dangerous tendency, as when Rowley adviſes him to pay his debts, before he makes a very liberal preſent, and ſo to act as an honeſt man ere he acts as a generous one.

Rowley. Ah, Sir, I wiſh you would remember the proverb —
Charles. Be juſt before you are generous.— Why ſo I would if I could, but Juſtice is an old lame hobbling beldame, and I can't get her to keep pace with Generoſity for the ſoul of me.

[Page 49] This ſentiment, than which nothing can be more falſe and immoral, is always received by the ſilly audience with loud applauſe, whereas no reprobation can be too ſevere for it. A leſſer blemiſh lies in the verſes tagged to the end of the play, in which one of the characters addreſſes the audience. The verſes are an abſurdity, the addreſs ſtill greater; for the audience is by no good actor ſuppoſed to be preſent: and any circumſtance that contributes to deſtroy the apparent reality of theatrical repreſentation, cannot meet with too ſharp cenſure. But it gives me pain to remark any faults in a piece that in general ſo well merits the applauſe it conſtantly receives. I ſhall only obſerve that the ſentiment put into Charles's mouth in the laſt ſcene, tho not liable to the objections brought againſt the former, is yet incompatible with the character, which is ſet in ſtrongeſt oppoſition to the ſentimental one of Joſeph. The words I mean are ‘If I don't appear mortified at the expoſure of my follies, it is becauſe I feel at this moment the warmeſt ſatisfaction at ſeeing you my liberal benefactor.’

[Page 50] IT may be obſerved that every thing like a ſentiment is ſure to meet with applauſe on our theatre; which the actors well expreſs by calling ſentiments clap-traps. This trick of ſecuring applauſe by ſentiments lately proved the ſalvation of the very worſt tragedy that ever appeared on any ſtage: for the audience had ſo much applauded the two firſt acts, from the number of thoſe clap-traps, that they were aſhamed to retract, ſo that the piece took a little run very quietly, to the diſgrace of our taſte, it being one of thoſe very farragos of nonſenſe that The Rehearſal was written to expoſe to due ſcorn: and, had it been fabricated before the aera of that witty performance, it would certainly have had the honour of being placed in the firſt ſhelf of abſurdity.

[Page 51]

HOW can you treat Petrarch with ſo much contempt? Tho I agree with you that there is a tedious ſameneſs in moſt of his compoſitions, yet I by no means think him without his merit. The very idea indeed of reading upwards of three hundred ſonnets gives pain; the ſtated form and meaſure of that kind of poetry being ſo diſguſtingly ſimilar, that I believe no man of genius would now write twenty in a life time. Yet it has its beauties: and tho your compariſon of a deſert of ſand, where the ſame objects always meet the eye, were allowed in ſpeaking of Petrarch; nevertheleſs in travelling that deſert you will now and then, at great intervals, I confeſs, light on a ſpring ſurrounded with verdure and flowers. In his own country, I ſuppoſe, the purity of his language, and his antiquity, ſecure his fame, independent of his poetical beauties, which are not many.

[Page 52] I ALSO grant you that he abounds with falſe beauties; among which the moſt groſs and diſguſting is his playing on the name of his miſtreſs, which unhappily ſignified a laurel tree, in every other line: but I cannot aſſent to your propoſition, that a writer of real genius may be in a fault, but can never happen on a falſe beauty. Shakſpere has many falſe beauties; and ſo has Milton.

IT is amazing that a writer, who in ſome paſſages diſcovers great force of mind, ſhould ſo utterly loſe himſelf in the unnatural metaphyſics of love. Yet, by a ſingular fate, it is to his weakneſs that he owes his fame; for his platonic paſſion threw ſuch a fairy light round himſelf and his writings, as rendered them very conſpicuous in theſe dark times. But in ſome of his Odes, or Canzoni, he proves himſelf not wholly undeſerving of his fame at this day; witneſs the Vth, in which there are beauties of the higheſt kind, as in this ſtanza:

Una parte del mondo è che ſi giace
Mai ſempre in ghiaccio, ed in gelate nevi,
Tutta luntana del cammin del ſole:
La, ſo [...]to i giorai nubiloſi e brevi,
[Page 53] Nemica naturalenente di pace
Naſce una gente, a cui'l morir non dole.
Queſta ſe piu devota, the non ſoli
Col Tedeſco furor la ſpada cigne;
Turchi, Arabi, e Caldei,
Con tutti quei the ſperan negli dei
Di qua dal mar the fa l'onde ſanguigne,
Quanto ſian de prezzar conoſcer dei:
Popolo ignudo, paventoſo, e lento;
Che ferro mai non ſtrigne,
Ma tutti colpi ſuoi commette al vento.
and in theſe lines of the ſame ode:
Pon mente al temerario ardir di Serſe;
Che fece, per calcar i noſtri liti,
Di novi ponti oltraggio alla marina;
E vedrai nella morte de mariti
Tutte veſtiti a brun le donne Perſe;
E tinto in roſſo it mar di Salamina.
E non, pur queſta miſera ruina,
Del popolo infelice del Oriente
Vittoria ten promette;
Ma Maratona, e le mortali ſtratte,
Che difeſe il leon con poca gente.

In Canzone XXIX. this ſtanza is eminently beautiful:

Voi cui Fortuna ha poſto in mano il freno
Delle belle contrade,
[Page 54] Di che nulla pieta par che vi ſtringa,
Che fan qui tante pelligrine ſpade?
Perchè 'l verde terreno
Del barbarico ſangue ſi dipinga?
Vano error vi luſinga.
Poco vedete; e parvi veder molto:
Che'n cor venale amor cercate, o fede.
Qual piu gente poſſede
Colui e piu da' ſuoi nemici avvolto,
O diluvio raccolto
Di che deferti ſtrani
Per innondar i noſtri dolci campi!
Se dalle proprie mani
Queſto n'avven, or chi fia the ne ſcampi?
His ſonnets, truly fine, and in which the train of thought varies, might be reduced to about a dozen. The real poetical beauties of Dante might likewiſe fall into very ſmall compaſs; conſiſting chiefly of the celebrated tale of Ugolino; and of that in the cloſe of the Vth Canto of the Inferno; which is as exquiſite for tenderneſs, as the other is remarkable for terror. Now, that beauties of writers are faſhionable reading, a ſmall duodecimo extracted from theſe two poets would, if performed with taſte, be an acceptable preſent to the public: for no [Page 55] works I have read afford ſo fair a field for ſelection as thoſe of the fathers of Italian poetry; as they contain diamonds of the fineſt water loſt in a maſs of common ſoil. Yet were they both men of real genius; for ſuperlative genius muſt be diſcovered from the amazing height it ſometimes riſes to; tho at other times it diſplays no extraordinary vigor. The genius of Petrarch is however more equal and correct than that of Dante; yet he by no means wanted ſtrength when he choſe to exert it. Nor was Dante, whoſe excellence is native force, deficient in deſcribing the tender paſſions, as may be ſeen in the Canto above referred to. Petrarch's learning almoſt deſtroyed his genius. Dante's genius ſhot freely, having no bound of erudition to confine its vigor: he is a bold original writer, whoſe beauties are peculiarly his own, while his faults are thoſe of the times.

[Page 56]

PERHAPS no queſtion of criticiſm may afford room for more curious inveſtigation than this: In what quality does the perpetual and univerſal excellence of writing conſiſt? or, in other words, What property of compoſition is certain to procure it the claſſic and legitimate admiration of all ages and countries?

To decide on this point it is certainly the ſureſt method to judge of the future by the paſt, and to pronounce that the ſame perfections which have ſecured to an author of three thouſand years ſtanding his due applauſe, will moſt infallibly effect the ſame end to a modern writer.

A POET of fine talents, but of far ſuperior taſte, has pronounced wiſdom or good ſenſe to be the very of fountain of perfect compoſition. ‘Scribendi recte ſapere eſt et principium et fons.’ [Page 57] And this maxim will be found to hold true in every ſpecies of writing whatever. Good ſenſe may be called the ſalt that preſerves the other qualities of writing from corruption. This property is alike required in every branch of the belles lettres; but there are others which may be conſidered as confined to one particular path of writing.

SUCH is imaginary invention with reſpect to poetry: I ſay, imaginary invention, to diſtinguiſh it here from that ſcientific invention which belongs to the judgment. This invention, as the parent of novelty, is the ſuperlative qualification of poetry, and nothing can contribute more to procure it permanent admiration. Yet invention itſelf is inferior to ſtrong ſenſe even in poetry, for there are poems in which the invention is rich yet diſguſts by its futility; not being conducted by that acer animi vis, that keen force of mind, which always accompanies true genius.

IF good ſenſe is therefore a praiſe ſuperior to invention itſelf in poetry, we may with great ſafety pronounce it one of the very firſt qualities that enſures applauſe to compoſition.

[Page 58] A BEAUTIFUL work of genius may be aptly compared to a beautiful woman. Good ſenſe may be called its health, without which it cannot live, charming as its other powers may be. But tho a woman has good health, it does not follow that ſhe is fair; nay we often applaud a morbidezza, or an appearance of ſickly delicacy, as an improver of female beauty; and in this the compariſon fails. A works, as well as its preſent parallel, muſt have the bloom and the features of beauty, with grace and elegance in its motions, to attract admiration. The bloom and fine features, the grace and elegance, of a work conſiſt in its ſtyle; which is the part that is moſt recommendatory of it, as outward beauty and grace are of a woman conſidered as an object of ſight.

THE bloom and the features of compoſition lie in the verbage and figures of its ſtyle; the grace in the manner and movement of that ſtyle.

A work, immoral and unwiſe, has yet been found to live by its ſtyle, in ſpite of theſe defects. Style is therefore a quality of writing [Page 59] equal, if not ſuperior, to good ſenſe: for the latter without the former will by no means preſerve a work, tho the reverſe of the rule is true. Indeed a fine ſtyle is commonly joined with good ſenſe; both being the offspring of the ſame luminous mind.

CAN a work live long which is defective in ſtyle? Impoſſible. Homer's ſtyle is the richeſt in the Greek language. Style has preſerved Herodotus in ſpite of his abſurdities. Every ancient, who has reached us, has an eminent ſtyle in his reſpective walk and manner. Style has ſaved all the Latin writers, who are only good imitators of the Greeks. Terence is only the tranſlator of Menander; Salluſt an imitator of Thucydides; Horace is an imitator and almoſt a tranſlator in all his odes, as we may boldly pronounce on comparing them with ſuch very minute fragments of Grecian lyric poetry as have reached us. Yet it was he who exclaimed ‘O imitatores ſervum pecus!’ Style has ſaved Virgil entirely, who has not the moſt diſtant pretence to any other attribute of a poet.

[Page 60] GOOD ſenſe I have called the health of a work without which it cannot live; but a work may live without much applauſe: and the firſt quality of writing that attracts univerſal and permanent fame was the ſubject of the preſent diſcuſſion. This we have found to be STYLE.

[Page 61]

TO your obſervations on the barbariſm of ſome modern cuſtoms, may be added thoſe which ariſe from the following lines of Juvenal, in his thirteenth ſatire;

Coerula quis ſtupuit Germani lumina, flavam
Caeſariem madido torquentem cornua cirro?
Who would have thought that our ſide-curls and frizzled toupee had ſuch antiquity, but along with that ſuch barbariſm, as to be the faſhion of the Germans ere they left their native woods? Tacitus in his excellent book of the manners of the Germans, mentions their twiſting their locks into horns and rings, as he calls them. It is curious to obſerve that a cuſtom invented in the moſt barbarous times ſhould again be brought into vogue at the moſt polite period.

[Page 62] WE ſee that both Juvenal and Tacitus have chanced on the ſame appellation, in mentioning this ſtrange piece of dreſs: the curls bearing indeed a very ſtrong reſemblance to the horns of animals. Happy Germans, will ſome modern huſbands be tempted to cry, whoſe horns were only of hair! How would Juvenal ſtare if he came into a modern aſſembly, and ſaw every man in the company have his horns, non ſine cauda.

PERHAPS it has eſcaped you that the invention of hair-powder did not ariſe in the country of the plica Polonica, as ſome malicious antiquaries affirm. Fauchet, in his Antiquités Gaulloiſes, tells us that the kings of the Merovingian race were in uſe to powder the hair of their heads and beards with gold duſt; an extravagance to which our beaux and belles may arrive in time.

FASHIONS may be laughed at, but muſt be followed to avoid greater evils.

[Page 63]

I TOTALLY controvert your opinion that our language has arrived at its higheſt pitch of refinement: ſo far from that, I know of no writer before Gray whoſe works are of claſſic correctneſs, except Milton.

HUME, I remember, tells us very gravely that the language of Pope is too much refined, as the language of ſome other writer, whom he names, is too little ſo: but he gives Parnell as a ſtandard author between the two extremes. This diſtinction is truly ridiculous, and worthy of a critic of the French ſchool, for it has unluckily been diſcovered that Pope improved the language of almoſt every line of Parnell, ſo that he is almoſt as much the author of Parnell's poems as Parnell himſelf.

[Page 64] BY refinement here I mean a manner of writing more pure, and of more exquiſite figures, than the run of even good compoſition. Milton's poetry is almoſt univerſally ſuch, but far leſs equally than that of Gray; who uſes not a ſingle word without a due value being ſtamped on it. This is claſſic refinement, in which not one word, one ſyllable, is ſuperfluous or improper.

POPE'S works are ſuperabundant with ſuperfluous and unmeaning verbage; his tranſlations are even replete with tautology, a fault which is to refinement as midnight is to noon day. What is truly ſurprizing is, that the fourth book of the Dunciad, his laſt publication, is more full of redundancy and incorrectneſs than his Paſtorals, which are his firſt.

BUT of any works which have obtained considerable applauſe, Thomſon's poem of The Seaſons is the moſt incorrect. Any reader who underſtands grammar and claſſic compoſition, is diſguſted in every page of that poem by faults, which, tho in themſelves minute, yet to a refined eye hide and obſcure every [Page 65] beauty however great, as a very ſmall intervening object will intercept the view of the ſun. This reaſon makes me very much ſuſpect the fame of the Seaſons will not be of long exiſtence; for I know of no work that has inherited long reputation which is deficient in ſtyle, as the Seaſons undoubtedly are to a moſt remarkable degree. The fact is, that the poem on which the future celebrity of Thomſon will be founded is, by a ſtrange fatality, almoſt totally neglected at this day. That is, his Caſtle of Indolence: a poem which has higher beauties than the Seaſons, without any of the faults which diſgrace that work; tho the concluſion even of this is moſt abſurd, and unhappy; and could never have occurred to a writer of taſte except in a frightful dream.

BY the bye, Mr. Gray has cloſely imitated a ſtanza, or two, of the Caſtle of Indolence, in his Elegy; as you will judge from comparing he exquiſite deſcription of the manner in which the poet is ſuppoſed to paſs his time,

Oft have we ſeen him at the peep of dawn, &c. [Page 66] with theſe lines of Thomſon not leſs exquiſite:

Of all the gentle tenants of the place
There was a man of ſpecial grave remark;
A certain tender gloom o'erſpread his face,
Penſive not ſad, in thought involv'd not dark.
As ſweet this man could ſing as morning lark;
And teach the nobleſt morals of the heart;
But theſe his talents were yburied ſtark:
Of the fine ſtores he nothing would impart
Which or boon Nature gave, or nature-painting Art.
To noontide ſhades incontinent he ran,
Where purls the brook with ſleep inviting ſound;
Or when Dan Sol to ſlope his wheels began,
Amid the broom he baſk'd him on the ground,
Where the wild thyme and camomoil are found.
There would he linger till the lateſt ray
Of light ſate trembling on the welkin's bound:
Then homeward thro the twilight ſhadows ſtray,
Sauntering and ſlow: ſo had he palled many a day.

WHEN I ſpeak of refinement as a perfection of writing, you muſt obſerve I by no means recommend an affected and fooliſh refinement; ſuch as that of the Spaniſh poets, than which the moſt groſs want of correctneſs is more allowable. The refinement I would applaud is ſuch as is truly claſſic; ſuch as we admire in [Page 67] the ſuperior Greek and Roman authors; ſuch a refinement as is perfectly compatible with an elegant ſimplicity: for you muſt obſerve, my friend, that the ſimplicity of the ancients is a refined ſimplicity. The purity of their language, and that of every good writer, reſembles that of wine, which requires labour and time to effect; not that of water, which is common and of no price.

[Page 68]

AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS informs us of an obſervation, which Hormiſdas, a prince of Perſia, made on Rome; and which is ſomething remarkable, namely, ‘That one thing only had there pleaſed him, to find that men died at Rome as well as elſewhere.’

MR. GIBBON in his Hiſtory has told us to read diſplicuiſſe for placuiſſe, diſpleaſed for pleaſed; a correction to which thoſe of Bentley are innocent. He ſays the contrary ſenſe would be that of a miſanthrope; whereas his affords a reproof of Roman vanity.

THE ſenſe that ſtrikes me is very different from either of theſe; and is this, that the prince's envy at the pleaſures of the inhabitants of Rome could only be moderated by the reflection that their pleaſures were tranſitory.

How would the miſerable envy the happy, were not the grave the equal termination of pleaſure and of pain!

[Page 69]

YOUR character of our deceaſed friend is undoubtedly juſt. The goodneſs of his heart atoned even for the prejudices and caprice of his head.

FOR what defects will not benevolence atone? Is not that virtue ſuperior to every qualification? Muſt not genius itſelf ‘hide its diminiſhed head’ before the ſuperior ſplendor of humble and uncelebrated worth?

How contemptible do the brighteſt purſuits of fame appear when oppoſed to the modeſt merit of doing good to mankind! How much ſweeter are the ſoft whiſpers of gratitude than the loudeſt plaudits of popular praiſe!

[Page 70] THERE is not ſurely a conſideration that can be more productive of contempt of fame in a virtuous mind, than this, that the madman who ravages kingdoms, and puts whole nations to the ſword, is looked on as a deity; while he who rewards induſtry, and relieves diſtreſs, lives without renown, and dies without pity.

To real goodneſs, my friend, even the praiſe of real and innocent greatneſs, which is that of the mind, muſt yield: for there is certainly more genuine merit in doing one good action than in writing an Iliad.

[Page 71]

AN opinion that is oppoſite to virtue is always oppoſite to truth. This maxim, which, tho expreſſed in few words, is the fruit of much obſervation, I have in no caſe found more applicable than in that moſt abſurd popular error, that extravagance, and inattention to oeconomy, always accompany genius.

WE all flatter ourſelves, in our youth eſpecially, that we are poſſeſt of that non-deſcript jewel called genius. Indeed, if the term genius have ſo extenſive a meaning as to imply capacity in general, or capability, as Brown the celebrated layer-out of grounds uſed the phraſe, we cannot deny that every one has genius of one kind or another. A man may, if you will, have a very fine genius for ſtupidity: a ſort of genius, which, tho I have not obſerved to be mentioned in any treatiſe on the ſubject, is yet at this day the moſt lucrative ſpecies of genius one can be poſſeſt of.

[Page 72] GENIUS is in my eſtimation a word of ineffable reverence. The Gnoſtic Abraxas itſelf is not to be weighed with it. Sometimes one man of genius riſes in the ſpace of one thouſand years only: ſometimes, indeed, when nature is unuſually rich, three or four will appear in one country in the courſe of a century; as was the caſe, when Bacon, Cromwell, Milton, Newton, illuminated England together, or at ſhort ſucceſſions. But now, good heaven! every man, every woman, every child, has genius. I will venture to propheſy that, in the year 1883, from a natural progreſſion of the word, genius will imply folly. The fact is, I have met with no man who in deſcribing genius did not tacitly paint himſelf.

BUT, to diſcuſs the opinion mentioned in the beginning of this letter, we ſhall, for the preſent, conſider genius in the popular ſenſe, as merely oppoſed to want of capacity for any art or ſcience; and allow that middling quality which we imply, when we call a perſon, or [...] work, ingenious, to fall under the grand claſs of GENIUS, Even allowing this, we muſt ſtill, to form a proper judgment, reaſon from the [Page 73] moſt high and perfect form in which genius appears; as a chemiſt would not, I imagine, diſplay the ſpecific gravity of gold from that which is beat out to an inconceivable thinneſs and exility for gilding, but from a ſolid maſs of that metal.

IF we examine therefore the conduct of ſuch men as all the world allows to have been endued with ſuperlative genius, we ſhall perceive that, ſo far from being univerſally curſt with inattention to oeconomy, we ſhall perhaps not find one example of want of that virtue among them. Of Homer we know nothing certain; and to build arguments upon fable is to write on ſand. Pindar, tho extravagance itſelf in his writings, yet was prudent enough to acquire great wealth by the ſale of them; and, what is more, to keep that wealth and uſe it with diſcretion. A French writer has wittily put it as the ſtrongeſt proof of Pindar's genius, that he ſold his writings well to thoſe who could not underſtand a line of them. [Page 74]

Findare etoit homme d'eſprit,
En faut il d'autres temoignages?
Profond dans tout ce qu'il ecrit;
Pindare etoit homme d'eſprit:
A qui jamais rien n'y comprit
Il ſut bien vendre ſes ouvrages;
Pindare etoit homme d'eſprit,
En faut il d'autres temoignages?
Anacreon's luxury, the ancients agree, lay more in his writings than in his life. In ſhort, of all the Greek poets I remember none who is branded with extravagance; much leſs any of their hiſtorians or philoſophers.

AMONG the Romans, with whom it may be queſtioned if literary or ſcientific genius ever exiſted, as I remember few writers in the Latin tongue who are original, or who, in other words, had a ſuperlative genius; yet we ſhall find that their ingenious men, if you will, laboured under no ſtain of diſſipation. To mention their firſt-rate writers, Tacitus and others, as men who paid the ſtricteſt attention to propriety, were ſuperfluous. Catullus, one of their moſt licentious poets, was yet no debauchee in his life, if we may judge from his own depoſition; [Page 75]

Nam caſtum eſſe decet, pium poetam,
Ipſum, verſiculos nihil neceſſe eſt.
A ſentence that ſurely would not have dropt from his pen, did his own manners contradict it; as we may always obſerve that writers adapt their words to their actions, not their actions to their words.

IF we come now to our own country, we ſhall find that genius has always been attended with oeconomy. Chaucer acquired wealth by his genius, and left it perfect to his heirs: ſo did Shakſpere. Bacon, it muſt be confeſſed, may be urged on the other ſide of the queſtion; but the diſſipation of his wealth was owing to no habit of extravagance on his part; but to his indulgence to his ſervants, and to abſence of mind. Milton, out of his ſhattered fortune, found means from ſtrict oeconomy to leave a comfortable ſubſiſtence to his wife and family. Newton's decency of life is well known. To conclude with Pope, who indeed can only rank with ingenious men, he amaſſed a conſiderable fortune; which he uſed with the ſtricteſt oeconomy, and propriety. A conduct which however does not atone for his always mentioning, [Page 76] in his poems, poverty as matter of reproach to others, and thus eternally blaſpheming the Providence that had made him rich.

THIS leads me to obſerve, by the bye, the falſity of another popular opinion, which is, that poetry and poverty are as nearly related in fact, as in ſound. 'As poor as a poet' is almoſt a proverb, and took its riſe from the itinerant minſtrels, who, in former times, were poets by real profeſſion or by trade. But few ſeem to know that no bard of claſſic days has reached us whom we do not know to have been moderately rich, except Homer; who, for aught certain, may have been a petty king juſt as likely as a beggar: and that modern times afford no real poets who were poor, except Spenſer and Taſſo. Even with regard to the firſt of theſe, we have no proof; and the poverty of the latter was that of a man of high birth, not of a mendicant.

[Page 77]

I DO not wonder that your ſearch after Biſhop Hall's Satires has failed of ſucceſs; for perhaps there are few books in the language which are more uncommon. After reading that Pope, upon their being ſhewn him, when he was far advanced in life, expreſſed great applauſe of them; and much regret that he had not chanced to ſee them ſooner; I do not wonder at your eagerneſs on this head: which in ſome meaſure to gratify, I ſend you extracts of his moſt ſhining paſſages.

THE work opens with a kind of poetical preface, called A Defiance to Envy: the three firſt lines of which are much in the ſpirit of our author's great cotemporary, Shakſpere.

Nay let the prouder pines of Ida feare
The ſudden fires of heaven, and decline
Their yielding tops, that dared the ſkies whilere.
[Page 78] This couplet, in the Prologue to the Firſt Book, is ſtrong,
Whence damned vice is ſhrouded quite from ſhame;
And crown'd with virtue's meed, immortal name!
In Satire I. ſpeaking of bad poetry, he ſays, ‘Or let it never live, or timely die.’ In which, and many of the lines after quoted, you will be ſurprized to find a ſmoothneſs and ſtrength not unworthy of Pope.
Now toſs they bowls of Bacchus' boiling blood.
Sat. II.
Bacchus' boiling blood were in the mouth of an ancient Greek, or Roman, writer, an exquiſite phraſe for wine; but you know I declare war againſt the whole crew of heathen deities in modern verſe.

THE following lines in Sat. IV. are worthy of Horace.

Painters and poets hold your auncient right;
Write what you will, and write not what you might
Their limits be their liſt; their reaſon, will;
But if ſome painter, in preſuming ſkill,
Should paint the ſtars in center of the earth,
Could ye forbear ſome ſmiles, and taunting mirth
[Page 79] In this couplet of Sat. VI. there ſeems even an attempt to make the ſound correſpond with the ſenſe:
The nimble dactyl ſtriving to outgo
The drawling ſpondees pacing it below.
In Sat. VII. ſhewing the folly of publiſhing verſes on a miſtreſs deſigned for a wife, he wittily exclaims,
Fond Wit-wal, that wouldſt load thy witleſs head
With timely horns before thy bridal bed!
Satire VIII. I tranſcribe entire for the ſake of its fine vein of irony. It is againſt ſome miſerable poem called St. Peter's Complaint, written by a Robert Southwell.
Hence ye profane: mell not with holy things,
That Sion's muſe from Paleſtina brings.
Parnaſſus is transform'd to Sion hill;
And iv'ry palms her ſteep aſcents done fill.
Now good St. Peter weeps pure Helicon;
And both the Marias make a muſic moan:
Yea and the prophet of the heavenly lyre,
Great Solomon, ſings in the Engliſh quire;
And is become a new-found ſonnatiſt;
Singing his love, the holy ſpouſe of Chriſt;
Like as ſhe were ſome light-ſkirts of the reſt,
In mightieſt inkhorniſms he can thither wreſt.
[Page 80] Ye Sion muſes ſhall, by my dear will,
For this your zeal, and far-admired ſkill;
Be ſtraight tranſported from Jeruſalem
Unto the holy houſe of Bethlehem.
'Mightieſt inkhorniſms' is a phraſe of much felicity to expreſs that ſort of writing in which ink alone is expended.

THIS couplet of the laſt Satire of this Firſt Book is again much in Pope's manner:

But arts of whoring, ſtories of the ſtews,
Ye Muſes will ye hear and may refuſe

Of Sat. II. Book II. theſe lines are fine:

Fond fool! ſix feet ſhall ſerve for all thy ſtore;
And he that cares for moſt ſhall find no more.

I believe the laſt line of theſe in Sat. III. is imitated by Milton:

Each homebred ſcience percheth in the chaire;
While ſacred arts grovell on the groundſell bare.

Sat. VI. of this book, its merit and its brevity will juſtify my tranſcribing entire.

A gentle ſquire would gladly entertaine
Into his houſe ſome trenchar-chaplaine:
Some willing man that might inſtruct his ſons;
And that would ſtand to good conditions.
[Page 81] Firſt that he lye upon the truckle-bed,
Whiles his young maiſter lieth o'er his head:
Second, that he do, on no default,
Ever preſume to ſit above the ſalt:
Third, that he never change his trencher twiſe:
Fourth, that he uſe all common courteſies,
Sit bare at meales, and one halfe riſe and wait:
Laſt, that he never his yong maiſter beat,
But he muſt aſke his mother to define
How manic jerkes ſhe would his breech ſhould line:
All theſe obſerved, he could contented bee
To give five markes, and winter liverie.

In Sat. I. Book III. this couplet on the ſavage ſtate of man is in the pictureſque ſtyle of Lucretius:

Could no unhuſked akorne leave the tree,
But there was challenge made, whoſe it might be.

This couplet of Sat. II. is divine, and a perfect ſpecimen of the moral ſublime.

Thy monument make thou thy living deeds;
No other tomb than that true virtue needs.

In Sat. III. ridiculing a citizen's pompous feaſt, he concludes:

For whom he meanes to make an often gueſt
One diſh ſhall ſerve:—and welcome make the reſt.

[Page 82] Theſe lines, in contempt of oſtentatious charity, are excellent.

Who ever gives a paire of velvet ſhooes
To th' Holy Rood; or liberally allowes
But a new rope to ring the curfew bell;
But he deſires that his great deed may dwell,
Or graven in the chancel-window-glaſs,
Or in the laſting tombe of plated braſſe?

This ludicrous deſcription in Satire V. muſt not be paſſed over.

Late travelling along in London way,
Mee met, as ſeem'd by his diſguis'd array,
A luſty courtier, whoſe curled head
With abron locks was fairely furniſhed.
I him ſaluted in our laviſh wiſe;
He anſweres my untimely courteſies:
His bonnet vail'd, ere ever he could thinke,
Th' unruly winde blowes off his periwinke.
He lights, and runs, and quickly hath him ſped
To overtake his over-runing head, &c.

It is with regret I obſerve, that Satire VI. of this Third Book is fooliſh and abſurd to the moſt contemptible degree, and totally unworthy of the author: it ought, in juſtice to all the reſt, to be ſtruck out of every future edition, in which the fame of the author is at all conſulted.

[Page 83] Of Sat. II. Book IV. theſe lines have no ſmall merit.

Let ſweet-mouth'd Mercia bid what crowns ſhe pleaſe
For half-red cherries, or green garden peaſe,
Or the firſt artichoaks of all the yeare;
To make ſo laviſh coſt for little cheare:
When Lolio feaſteth in his revelling fit,
Some ſtarved pullen ſcoures the ruſted ſpit.
For elſe how ſhould his ſon maintained be
At inns of court or of the chancery;
There to learn law and courtly carriage,
To make amends for his mean parentage;
Where he unknowne and ruffling as he can
Goes currant each where for a gentleman?

In the ſame Satire, ſpeaking of a bankrupt, he ſays,

That hath been long in ſhady ſhelter pent,
Impriſoned for feare of priſonment.

The laſt of the thoughts in this quatrain has genuine wit:

Whoſe mention were alike to thee as lieve,
As a catch-poll's fiſt unto a bankrupt's ſleeve:
Or an hos ego from old Petrarch's ſpright
Unto a plagiary ſonnet-wright.

[Page 84] Theſe verſes of the ſame Satire are excellent:

How I foreſee, in many ages paſt,
Where Lolio's caytive name is quite defac'd;
Thine heir, thine heir's heir, and his heir again
From out the loynes of careful Lolian,
Shall climb up to the chancel pewes on high,
And rule and raigne in their rich tenancy.
When perch'd aloft, to perfect their eſtate,
They rack their rents unto a treble rate;
And hedge in all the neighbour common lands,
And clodge their ſlaviſh tenants with commands.
Whiles they poor ſouls with feeling ſigh complaine;
And wiſh old Lolio were alive againe:
And praiſe his gentle ſoule, and wiſh it well,
And of his friendly facts full often tell.

Afterwards, ſpeaking of the proud heir's purchaſing a pedigree, and arms, of the herald, he wittily adivſes him to take for the latter

The Scottiſh barnacle, if I might chooſe,
That of a worme doth waxe a winged gooſe.

Theſe characters in Sat. III. are very well.

Ventrous Fortunio his farm hath ſold,
And gads to Guiane-land, to fiſh for gold;
Meeting, perhaps, if Orenoque deny,
Some ſtraggling pinnace of Polonian rye.
[Page 85] Then comes home floating with a ſilken ſail,
That Severne ſhaketh with his cannon peal.
Wiſer Raymundus, in his cloſet pent,
Laughs at ſuch danger and aventurement.
Whey half his lands are ſpent in golden ſmoke,
And now his ſecond hopeful glaſſe is broke;
But yet if haply his third furnace hold
Devoteth all his pots and pans to gold.

I know of no claſſic writer to whom the above lines would not do honour.

This ſtroke in the ſame Satire is truly in the arch ſtyle of Horace:

Florian the ſire did women love alive;
And ſo his ſonne doth too, all but his wife.

Of Satire IV. take this ſpecimen:

Hye wanton Gallio, and wed betime;
Why ſhould'ſt thou leeſe the pleaſures of thy prime?
Seeſt thou the roſe-leaves fall ungathered!
Then hye thee, wanton Gallio, to wed:
Let ring and ferule meet upon thine hand,
And Lucine's girdle with her ſwathing-band.
Hye thee, and give the world yet one dwarfe more,
Such as it got when thou thyſelfe waſt bore.
Look not for warning of thy bloomed chin:—
Can ever happineſſe too ſoon begin?

[Page 86] The following ſtrokes of Sat. VII. are admirable. I muſt premiſe, however, that Aquine here means Juvenal, who was of Aquinum; not Thomas Aquinas, as one might imagine from this very ill-imagined patronymic.

When once I thinke, if carping Aquine's ſpright
To ſee now Rome were licenc'd to the light,
How his enraged ghoſt would ſtamp and ſtare
That Caeſar's throne is turn'd to Peter's chayre!
To ſee an old-ſhorn lozell perched high,
Croſſing beneath a golden canopy,
The whiles a thouſand hairleſſe crownes crouch low
To kiſſe the precious caſe of his proud toe;
And for the lordly faſces, borne of old,
To ſee two quiet croſſed keys of gold;
Or Cybele's ſhrine, the famous Pantheon's frame,
Turn'd to the honour of our lady's name.
But that he moſt would gaze, and wonder at,
Is th' horned mitre, and the bloody hat;
The crooked ſtaffe, their coule's ſtrange form an ſtore,
Save that he ſaw the ſame in hell before.

Virgil's varium et mutabile ſemper foemina h [...] been much applauded: the following ſly insinuation I think exceeds it.

Was ever feather, or fond woman's mind,
More light than words? the blaſts of idle wind!
Sat. I. B.

[Page 87] Theſe lines of the ſame Satire deſerve ſelection.

Would it not vex thee, where thy ſires did keep,
To ſee the dunged folds of dog-tayl'd ſheep?
And ruin'd houſe, where holy things were ſaid,
Whoſe freeſtone walls the thatched roofe upbraid.
Whoſe ſhrill ſaints-bell hangs on his levery,
While the reſt are damned to the plumbery?
Yet pure devotion lets the ſteeple ſtand,
And idle battlements on either hand,
Leſt that perhaps, were all theſe relicks gone,
Furius his ſacrilege could not be knowne.

The following lines of the next Satire are exceedingly well.

Look to the tow'red chimnies, which ſhould be
The wind pipes of good hoſpitality;
Through which it breatheth to the open aire
Betokening life and liberal welfare:
Lo! there th' unthankful ſwallow takes her reſt,
And fills the tunnel with her circled neſt.

In the ſame Satire the black prince is an unhappy appellation of Pluto, as that name is almoſt appropriated to one of the greateſt of Engliſh heroes.

The beginning of Sat. III. is fortunate.

The ſatire ſhould be like the porcupine,
That ſhoots ſharp quils out in each angry line;
[Page 88] And wounds the bluſhing cheeke, and fiery eye,
Of him that hears and readeth guiltily.
Ye antique ſatires, how I bleſſe your dayes,
That brook'd your bolder ſtile—their own diſpraiſe;
And well near wiſh, yet joy my wiſh is vaine,
I had been then, or they been now againe!

In the firſt couplet above quoted, however, a ſimile is confounded with a metaphor.

The following alluſions are not unlucky:

Yet certes Moecha is a Platoniſt,
To all, they ſay, but whoſo do not liſt;
Becauſe her huſband, a far traffick'd man,
Is a profeſt Peripatecian.

In Book VI. and laſt, which conſiſts of only one Satire, ſpeaking of a factor, who knows he is in his lord's laſt will, and of his pretended grief at the ſickneſs or his patron, he proceeds:

Then turns his back, and ſmiles and looks aſkance,
Seas'ning again his ſorrow'd countenance.
Whiles yet he wearies heaven with daily cries,
And backward death with devout ſacrifice;
That they would now his tedious ghoſt bereav'n;
And wiſhes well, that wiſh'd no worſe than heav'n.

There is a curious mixture of the manner of Shakſpere, and Pope, in the above quotation: and in the following there is as curious an anticipation.

[Page 89]
Go, Arioſt, and gape for what may fall
From trencher of a flattering cardinal:
And if thou getteſt but a pedant's fee,
Thy bed, thy board, and coarſer livery;
O honour far beyond a brazen ſhrine,
To ſit with Tarleton on an ale-poſt's ſigne!

The following ridicule of the then faſhionable ſtyle of writing ſhews, that our author's taſte was as juſt as his compoſition is excellent.

He knows the grace of that new elegance,
Which ſweet Philiſides fetch'd of late from France;
That well beſeem'd his high-ſtil'd Arcady
Tho others marre it with much liberty.
In epithetes to joine two wordes in one;
Forsooth for adjectives can't ſtand alone.
As a great poet could of Bacchus ſay,
That he was Semele-femori-gena.

The following ſtroke upon falſe deſcriptions of beauty is witty.

Another thinks her teeth might liken'd be
To two faire rankes of pales of ivory;
To fence in ſure the wild-beaſt of her tongue
From either going far or going wrong.

[Page 90] I ſhall conclude with obſerving, that no poet in our language has had ſo little juſtice done him as the writer of theſe Satires. It muſt be owned, that in reading ſatire we expect to find real characters, which are here wanting, every attempt of this kind being the evident product of the author's invention only; and it muſt likewiſe be confeſſed, that the whole work ſmells more of the ſcholar, than of the man of the world. To compenſate theſe ſmall faults, this volume diſplays a correctneſs and manlineſs of thought, that for the age of conceits in which it was publiſhed are quite wonderful; and, in general, a beauty and harmony of verſification that leave little to wiſh. Were my ſuffrage of any weight, Biſhop Hall ſhould inſtantly burſt from the cloud which ſtill envelops him; and, like another Aeneas, receive at once the honour due to his merit.

[Page 91]

YOU wonder at my aſſertion on a former occaſion*, that Virgil has not the moſt diſtant pretence to any attribute of a poet, except that of a fine ſtyle. To vindicate my opinion from the charge of raſhneſs, I now ſubmit to you my reaſons. It is indeed dangerous to attack the reputation of a good writer, as I allow Virgil to be, in any reſpect; for if your aſſault is not ſupported by a ſtrong hoſt of arguments, it will recoil upon yourſelf. But, as I know your liberality of ſentiment too well, to fear your pronouncing haſtily upon an opinion, merely becauſe it controverts your ideas, or thoſe of the world at large, I ſhall lay what I call my proofs before you without heſitation.

[Page 92] IT is agreed by all the critics, that genius, known by invention, as a cauſe from its effect, is the very firſt power and praiſe of a poet. I believe, however, the moſt ſanguine admirer of Virgil will allow, that not one ray of invention appears thro his whole works. His Eclogues, conſidered as works of invention, are beneath all contempt. Where he has not followed the tract of Theocritus, he has wandered into childiſh abſurdity: witneſs the Pollio; in which, becauſe ſome ſenator's wife was brought to bed of a chopping boy, he propheſies the golden age will return. I know ſome Chriſtian writers have applied this prophetic eclogue to an higher event—but I ſee you ſmile in contempt;—and I paſs the dreams of fanaticiſm. Witneſs the Sixth Eclogue, into which a ſyſtem of philoſophy has crept by ſome ſtrange back-door or other. A critic in the Adventurer has pronounced all the Paſtorals of Virgil exceptionable, except the Firſt and Tenth: now in theſe there is no invention, both of them, as that critic allows, deriving their ſuperiority from their being founded on real events. I conclude, therefore, that Virgil is, in his Paſtorals, no poet, but merely an excellent verſifier.

[Page 93] IF we proceed to the Georgics, we ſhall find as few marks of genius in them as in the Paſtorals, in ſpite of the blind admiration which has been paid that poem. The ſubject is confeſſedly unhappy; for Virgil in this was the imitator of Heſiod, as in his Paſtorals of Theocritus, and in his Aeneid of Homer. ‘O imitatores ſervum pecus!’ was the juſt exclamation of his more ingenious cotemporary, Horace. How blind, my friend, muſt thoſe be who could not infer, if this remark be juſt, how little is Virgil! Virgil, whoſe whoſe fame reſts upon three ſpecimens of imitation!

To examine the Georgics by the criterion of invention, which is that of genius and true poetry, we muſt confeſs, that in a didactic poem, the precepts are quite out of the province of invention; and for this reaſon the didactic is the loweſt of all the kinds of poetry. But the Georgics are allowed to be Virgil's chief work: the work on which his fame principally reſts; tho he afterwards aſpired to be an epic writer, (what an epic writer!) and it follows, that, at the moſt, Virgil is but an [Page 94] excellent didactic writer, even in the opinion of his moſt ſanguine admirers: that is, if you pleaſe, we will grant for a moment that he ſtands firſt in the very meaneſt rank of poetry: ſurely no high praiſe.

WHERE is his fame as a poet, if it is proved that even this praiſe, ſlender as it is, is yet infinitely too high for him? Yet this will be eaſily proved to thoſe whoſe minds are not ſecured from the light of truth by the impenetrable ſhades of prejudice.

A DIDACTIVE poem muſt be written in ſuch a ſtyle as to be underſtood by thoſe to whom it is addreſſed. If painting, for example, is the ſubject, the language ought to be ſuch as may be underſtood by any painter of common intelligence. This rule, univerſally juſt as it is, muſt always be followed; elſe the abſurdity were as great as if a country curate ſhould preach to his ſtaring pariſhioners in Hebrew, and expect they ſhould follow precepts which it was impoſſible they ſhould underſtand. Common ſenſe, my friend, which is ſo uncommon a thing among the critics, and yet which enables [Page 95] any man to judge better of writing than all the capricious dictates of criticiſm, teaches us that the neceſſity of following this rule is indiſpenſable. Yet it has not been followed by Virgil, who writes to country farmers in a moſt elaborate, and to them impenetrably obſcure, ſtyle. Who can help ſmiling to ſee him conſtantly addreſſing himſelf to people, who, as he well knew, could not poſſibly underſtand him? Yet he is called the judicious Virgil, by thoſe who can ſee very near as far as their noſes, with the help of a borrowed lanthorn!

WHY dwell on particular abſurdities of a production, which, in its very eſſence, is abſurdity itſelf? Yet we muſt not paſs the Epiſodes and ornaments of the Georgics, which have been hitherto allowed the very brighteſt proofs Virgil has given of genius or invention. Let us weigh theſe proofs, if poſſible, in the very ſcales which critical Juſtice holds.

THE invocation to Caeſar's ſpirit, the ſpirit of a tyrant, who trampled on the liberties of his country, could never have been written by a poet of real genius; for invincible honeſty, of [Page 96] mind has always been its attendant. Fulſome flattery and adulation, unworthy of the ſoul of a ſlave, conſtitute the merits of Virgil, in this admired addreſs. May execration purſue his memory, who has placed a crown on the brows of a tyrant, that were much too bright for the beſt of kings! The ſigns preceding the death of Julius, enumerated in the end of the book, are in the ſame ſtyle with the addreſs; ſuperſtitious offerings on the altar of ſlavery. They who find invention in either of theſe ornaments, are welcome to feed on it, mixed up with a little whipt cream.

I ALLOW it were prejudice alone that could induce a reader to deny the beauty of the panegyric on a country life, which cloſes the Second Book; but at the ſame time it may be ſafely ſaid, that there are no marks in it of a ſuperlative poet. Of invention there are ſurely none, nor of originality; for the theme has been, in all ages of poetry, a trite one. Virgil in this paſſage, therefore, as in others, only diſplays great ſkill in the mechanical part of poetry, but leaves the praiſe of a great poet to happier rivals.

[Page 97] THE deſcription of the plague, in the end of the Third Book, is evidently in imitation of Lucretius, only more full and rich. But facile eſt inventis addere; and this Epiſode may give Virgil the fame of a happy imitator, but never that of a true poet.

THE ſtory of Ariſtaeus in the laſt Book diſplays not the powers of Ovid, tho ſuperior in chaſtity of verſification. But who ever ſaid Ovid was a poet?

I TRUST it will appear from this deduction, that Virgil has not in his Paſtorals; nor in his Georgics, given any proofs of genius, invention, or that which properly conſtitutes a poet.

THE Aeneid ſhall, if you like the ſubject, be examined ſome future opportunity; and will, I know, add ſtill leſs renown to Virgil as a creator.

YET Virgil deſerves all his fame: a paradox, you will ſay, worthy of Rouſſeau.

[Page 98]

YOUR obſervation, that there is a fatality which attends the reputation of authors, as well as other human affairs, is undoubtedly juſt. How elſe shall we account for Milton's immortal poem lingering ſo ſlowly into fame, while the moſt vapid productions of ſome of his cotemporaries acquired an inſtant celebrity, as wide as it was ill-founded?

DUBOS has given us a curious theory of the manner in which works of merit attain their due reputation. His reflections, like thoſe of other French critics, are ſpecious without value, and maſſy without ſolidity. Let us ſtrike againſt them: perhaps the truth will fly out.

'NEW productions,' ſays he, ‘are at firſt appreciated by judges of very different characters; people of the trade, and the public. They would be very ſoon eſtimated at their [Page 99] juſt value, if the public was as capable of defending its opinion, and making it weigh properly, as it knows how to take the juſt ſide. But it has the eaſineſs to allow its judgment to be embarraſſed by perſons who profeſs the art to which the new production belongs. Theſe perſons are often apt to make a falſe report, for reaſons which we will explain. They obſcure the truth in ſuch a manner, that the public remains for ſome time in uncertainty, or in error. It does not know preciſely what title the new work merits. The public remains undecided on the queſtion, if it is good, or bad, on the whole: and it even ſometimes believes people of the profeſſion, who deceive it; but it only believes them for a very ſhort time.’

‘THAT firſt period being elapſed, the public appreciates a work at its juſt value; and gives it the rank which it deſerves, or condemns it to utter oblivion. It is never deceived, becauſe it judges diſintereſtedly, and becauſe it judges by ſentiment.’

[Page 100] SUCH are the reflections of the Abbé du Bos, whom I will readily allow to be the moſt judicious of the French critics, if that is any praiſe. Truth is againſt them. Let us examine their juſtice by an illuſtrious inſtance.

PARADISE LOST was ſold by John Milton to his bookſeller on the twenty-ſeventh day of April 1667, during the witty and ingenious reign of Charles II. when Dryden was at the head of poetry and criticiſm. Did it inſtantly aſtoniſh the world as if a new ſun had ariſen? No. Three years paſſed, changes of titles, and other bookſelling arts, were employed ere a ſmall impreſſion could be ſold, tho not one of the trade of poetry perplexed the public opinion. Dryden, who was at the head of that trade, was the firſt to perceive and to applaud its beauties. Criticiſm was the general purſuit of that age, which was fully as enlightened on that head as the preſent. What happened them would have happened now: in the year 1767 Milton's divine poem would have met exactly the ſame reception as in 1667. And why The anſwer is evident: the work was in a ſtyle of poetry above the popular conception; [Page 101] and the judgment of true judges, tho it always prevails, yet prevails with as much ſlowneſs as certainty.

IN this lies the grand miſtake of du Bos. He ſuppoſes the public judges for itſelf: it is always led by peculiar opinions, and the rectitude of its ſentiments depends entirely upon the ſuperiority of its leaders being founded in truth, or merely in faſhion. By the public, I underſtand with him, people of ſome knowlege and ſome reading. A man who reads for his amuſement books in his own language, and can talk a little on what he reads, may afford a kind of abſtract idea of what is meant by the public. Now I will venture to compute from real obſervation, that not 99 out of 100, who pretend to admire Milton, are capable of underſtanding that writer. Why then has he a place in their libraries? Becauſe he is mentioned with high applauſe by writers of reputation.

HAD not Addiſon written his ſuperficial criticiſm on Milton, which is indeed adapted to the meaneſt capacity, other men of learning [Page 102] would have brought him into vogue: for a ſuperior poet is always the poet of the learned, before he is that of the public at large.

WITNESS the Comus, L'Allegro, Il Penſeroſo, the exquiſite productions of the ſame author; which remained a feaſt for the learned alone, for near a century after their publication. They were publiſhed in 1645, and were taken no notice of. The Comus, L'Allegro, Il Penſeroſo, were taken no notice of at a period when we ſometimes find the tenth edition upon maſſes of metrical nonſenſe that are now unknown to have exiſted! Let the public after this judge for itſelf. A ſecond edition of theſe divine poems did not appear till 1673; and even then they were not republiſhed, becauſe they were called for, but becauſe they made a ſizeable volume with his Paradiſe Regained, then firſt publiſhed.

WHAT is the reaſon of ſuch poems falling into ſilence? Is it not becauſe thoſe learned [...]en who happened to ſee and admire them [...] [...]o opportunity of recommending them to [...] notice?

[Page 103] AT the ſame time it muſt be obſerved, that it is the impartial, uninfluenced, opinion of men of learning, that commands the public judgement; not that of ſuch men of learning as are friends of the author: for ſuch deciſions the public, however highly it may rate the abilities of him who pronounces them, yet has always diſcernment enough to ſet aſide.

SELDOM does it even happen, that the opinion of cotemporary men of learning influences the public: which is the reaſon that the works of any living writer are very ſeldom juſtly appreciated. Yet it may ſo happen that a writer, from a happy circumſtance, may acquire a reputation as juſt as it is inſtantaneous. This was the caſe with the late Mr. Gray, who by his happening to be converſant in faſhionable company, gained a complete century in point of reputation. For, tho faſhionable writers are mot juſtly ſet in oppoſition to good, the very epithet implying that their works will not laſt; yet faſhion is now and then in the right, as well as other fools.

[Page 104] IT is above obſerved, that the opinion of cotemporary judges, decides not that of the public. The truth is, there are works of ſuperlative merit, of which the moſt learned cotemporary can form no true eſtimate; for works of uncommon excellence require to be viewed at a certain diſtance, and in a certain light, to have their due effect. Set a picture of Raphael's againſt the blaze of the noonday ſun, and its beauties will be as little diſcerned as at midnight. Let me add, that an eminent writer is ſeldom the writer of his own times: his mature mind precedes the advancement of his art and language very often by a full century: ſo that one hundred years, and ſometimes more, muſt elapſe, ere the public has acquired intelligence enough to judge of him.

[Page 105]

As I know your admiration of Shakſpere, and your fondneſs for any new remarks illuſtrative of the works of that wonderful poet, I ſhall make no apology for laying before you ſuch obſervations as have occurred to me, in reading the laſt edition of his Plays 1778. I ſhall follow the order of volume and page, as in that edition; and muſt beg leave, in commenting upon Shakſpere, likeways to comment upon his commentators.

Vol. I. p. 39. TEMPEST. Upon this line, ‘Thy nerves are in their infancy again,’ is this note: "So Milton in his Maſque at Ludlow caſtle, ‘Thy nerves are all bound up in alabaſter."’

WHAT in the name of wonder has this quotation to do with the line in the text? It might as well have been noted,

"So Milton in his Sonnets,
A book was writ of late call'd Tetrachordon."

[Page 106] MOST of the notes of this writer begin with So, let it be pertinent or not; which gave a wag occaſion to obſerve, that all his notes were ſo, ſo.

P. 269. MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR. I approve of the reading "Will you go on, heris?" Warburton, with his uſual raſhneſs of half knowledge, calls heris an old Scotiſh word for maſter. It is the plural of here, an old Scotiſh word for maſter or lord, from the Latin herus. Biſhop Douglas often uſes it in his tranſlation of Virgil: ‘Hyarbas king and other heris all. Book IV. ’ ‘The heres war wount togydder ſit alſame. B. VII. ’ ‘Bayth commoun pepyl and the heris bald. B. IX. ’ and elſewhere in the ſingular, ‘The kyng hymſelf Latinus the great here. B. XII. ’ ‘Over the grete logeings of ſum michty here. B. XII.

[Page 107] Vol. II. p. 257. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.

Who is his companion now? He hath every month a new ſworn brother.

THIS alludes to the ancient practice of chivalry, of the young warriors vowing a mutual friendſhip and aid of each other. Such were called brothers at arms. This cuſtom exiſted in France ſo late as the cloſe of the laſt century: witneſs this paſſage in the Letters of Madame de Sevigné: ‘J'eſtime fort Barbantanne: c'eſt un des plus braves hommes du monde, d'une valeur preſque romaneſque d'ont j'ai oui parler mille fois a Buſſi; ils ſont freres d'armes. ’ Tome II. See more in M. Du Cange's Diſſertation, annexed to Joinville, Des freres d'armes; and St. Palaye, Notes ſur la IIIme Partie de ſes Mem. ſur l'ancienne Chevalerie.

P. 328. An two men ride of a horſe one muſt ride behind.

THE note on this paſſage, informing us that Shakſpere may have caught this idea from the common ſeal of the Knights Templars, the device of which was two riding upon one horſe, is truly in the ſpirit of a man who has loſt his [Page 108] own ideas in the purſuit of thoſe of antiquity: for the ſentence in the text, which ſeems proverbial, muſt have ariſen to the meaneſt peaſant from an object almoſt every day before his eyes.

P. 356. What courage, man! What tho care killed a cat, thou haſt mettle enough in thee to kill care.

This ſeems to allude to an old ſong, beginning

Some ſay that care kill'd a cat;
It ſtarv'd her and made her to die.
But I ſhall be wiſer than that;
For the devil a care have I.
By care's killing a cat, the very deſtructive power of care is intended to be ſhewn; a cat being vulgarly ſaid to have nine lives.

P. 425. LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST. Upon this couplet,

When for fame's ſake, for praiſe, an outward part,
We bend to that the working of the heart,
is this wonderful note, which I need not tell you is by Warburton. ‘The harmony of the meaſure, the eaſineſs of the expreſſion, and the good ſenſe in the thought, all concur to recommend theſe two lines to the reader's [Page 109] notice.’ The lines will, I doubt not, ſtrike you, and every man of common ſenſe, not to ſay common taſte, as utterly, deſtitute of every quality this apoſtolical alchymiſt recommends; who in his dreams tries to convert the very dirt of Shakſpere into gold. The preſervation of ſuch nonſenſical comments much arraigns the taſte of his variorum editors.

P. 498. "Some flighty zany." Zany is from the Italian zanni, which is from the Latin ſannio, a buffoon. Zanni was the name appropriated by the Italian comedy to Scapiri, and to Harlequin; from the malicious buffoonery of theſe characters. Hence a zany, a fool, a fellow of trifling malice. The Dictionary Della Cruſca, Zannata, coſa da Zanni; coſa frivola. See Riccoboni Hiſtoire du Theatre Italien.

Vol. III. p. 30. MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. "The wiſeſt aunt telling the ſaddeſt tale." The note on this paſſage, informing us that wiſeſt aunt here means the moſt ſentimental bawd, is truly Warburtonian, as the expreſſion taken in its direct ſenſe is much more humorous. Such notes make one ſick. We ſhall [Page 110] by and bye be informed that, when Hamlet ſays Mother, he means capital bawd, becauſe Mother Needham's character is well known.

P. 35. Of the information in the note that fairies were ſubject to mortality, I will venture to ſay there is no evidence in any creed of popular ſuperſtition.

P. 56. ‘Reaſon becomes the marſhal to my will.’ That is, my will now obeys the command of my reaſon; not, my will now follows reaſon. Marſhal is a director of an army, of a turney, of a feaſt. Sidney has uſed marſhal for herald or pourſuivant; but improperly: and the Arcadia is certainly no well of Engliſh undefiled.

P. 62. Of the remark on Snout's ſpeech every reader who is a man of this world ſees the abſurdity. The phraſe, ‘You ſee an aſs's head of your own; do you?’ is a trite vulgariſm, when a perſon expreſſes a fooliſh amazement at ſome trifling oddity in another's dreſs, or the like.

[Page 111] P. 85. ‘For night's ſwift dragons cut the clouds full faſt.’ The image of dragons drawing the chariot of night, is derived from the ſuppoſed watchfulneſs of that fabled animal; is claſſic, and as ſuch often uſed by Milton. Shakſpere was certainly learned, if learning conſiſts in reading books, not in ſtudying languages.

P. 90. "Give me your neif." Neif or neive is the Scotiſh word, I am told, to this day for fiſt. Skinner derives it from the French noeud, a knot: more likely from the Cimbric kneffe, the fiſt.

P. 109. The wiſe note on the words ‘Our ſport ſhall be to take what they miſtake,’ is certainly introduced with a bad deſign upon the reader's lungs, for nothing is ſo riſible as perfect abſurdity.

P. 115. The whole pitiful comments on the words ‘two noble beaſts, a man and a lyon,’ ſhould be erazed, as doing no credit to the firſt of theſe animals. The text is right, and of eaſy interpretation.

[Page 112] P. 119. "And thus ſhe moans." For this alteration we are indebted to Theobald, who did not know that means, which formerly ſtood in the text, was an old Engliſh word; and is now a common one in Scotiſh law, ſignifying to tell, to narrate, to declare. Petitions to the Court of Seſſion in Scotland run, To the Lords of Council and Seſſion, humbly means and ſhews your petitioner, &c.

P. 121. Of the Bergomaſk dances ſomething may be ſeen in Riccoboni's work, above quoted: Harlequin, I believe, was a native of the whimſical country about Bergamo, a city of Lombardy.

MERCHANT OF VENICE, p. 241. ‘A little ſcrubbed boy.’ I diſagree entirely from the learned annotator on this place, who aſſerts that from the context, and tenor of the ſtory, Gratiano does not ſpeak contemptuouſly of Neriſſa, when diſguiſed as the Judge's clerk. In the repreſentation (the ſureſt criterion) it ſtrikes the whole audience that he does: and indeed in his ſpeaking contemptuouſly of his wife, in her aſſumed character, to herſelf in [Page 113] her real one, lies the whole dramatic effect, and vis comica of the paſſage. Underſtand therefore ſcrubbed in its common ſenſe of derivation from ſcrub, mean fellow.

P. 259. Leti's noted ſtory, I have no doubt, is borrowed from ſome old fable, as the character of that hiſtorian is well known, who was another Varillas;—a writer who wrote a kind of low romances, as mob-traps, and called them Hiſtories.

P. 281. AS YOU LIKE IT. Condition is rightly interpreted diſpoſition. So in Othello gentle conditions are gentle diſpoſitions. It is a common phraſe in the old Engliſh writers, ‘All here-tyke is no gentleman: for he is a gentilman that hath gentyl conditions.’ The Examination of the conſtant martir of Chriſt, John Philpot, Archdeacon of Wincheſter, &c. London 1559. b. l. fig. A. ‘For ſuche perſones rebuked, or puniſhed, perchance excuſyng theymſelfe, that they doe it by to ardent affection, and deſyre to pleaſe; or by their youth, and lacke of experience; or recogniſyng theyr folie, and promiſyng amandement; may [Page 114] happen aftſoones to crepe into favour, and than they woorke theyr nette ſo finely, that it cannot ſo ſoone be perceived, and pitcheth it more covertly, appliyng it aprely to theyr maiſter's condicions, ſo that it ſhall be almoſt impoſſible for hym to eſcape, but that in one meiſhe or other he ſhall be tangled.’ The Image of Governance, &c. tranſlated by Sir Thomas Elyote. Anno 1549. folio verſo 20.

P. 298. The obſervation marked (7) is ſo innocent and chaſte, that I dare ſay every boarding-ſchool girl laughs at it.

P. 303. ‘'Tis a Greek invocation to call fools into a circle. I'll go ſleep if I can; if I cannot I'll rail againſt all the firſt-born of Egypt.’

THE note here ſays ‘ The firſt born of Egypt. A proverbial expreſſion for high-born perſons.’ Who ever heard of ſuch a proverb? The meaning is obvious: Jaques ſays Duc ad me is a charm: but if it does not make him ſleep, he will rail againſt all the gypſies who uſe it. For granting it an invocation, as he [Page 115] jeeringly ſays, the gypſies (the witches and magicians of Shakſpere's days) were the moſt likely to be the inventors of it, and if it failed of effect, they deſerved to be railed at as impoſtors.

P. 325. The expreſſion of Roſalind, ‘One inch of delay more is a South ſea of diſcovery,’ has almoſt diſtilled the brains of the annotators, who have been here loſt as in a South ſea, tho every reader but they ſaw ſhore at the firſt glance. The plain meaning is, ‘One inch of delay more is a Southſea, in which one may ſail far and wide without making any diſcovery.’ Of is here uſed inſtead of for, as in many other Engliſh phraſes. Note 8. Dr. Warburton's explanation of Good my complexion! in the ſame page is juſt: and indeed the expreſſion was intelligible to the meaneſt capacity. Peruſe, however, the next note to his, and pronounce that modern antiquaries have as little claim to intrinſic ſcience as any of their predeceſſors.

P. 371. The words, "And you, fair ſiſter," ſeem to have been inſerted by the players, that Oliver might not remain ſo very long a mute [Page 116] perſon on the ſtage. In his mouth they are quite abſurd, even in the ſenſe of the note ſigned "Chamier." I ſtrongly ſuſpect the truth is they belong to Orlando; and that Oliver ſhould have his exit, when Orlando ſays to him, "Go you and prepare Aliena;" for nothing elſe marks his preſence, except theſe improper words; which, in the mouth of Orlando, are every way proper, eſpecially in the abſence of Oliver. Read therefore meo periculo (if I may uſe the Bentleian ſtyle of emendation) the words Exit Oliver, after the words in Orlando's ſpeech, "here comes my Roſalind:" And inſtead of Oli. in the next ſpeech, ſave one, read Orla.

I SHALL here cloſe my obſervations on the three firſt volumes of this edition of Shakſpere; which muſt be allowed to be more pure of faults than any that has yet appeared. If I find theſe ſlight notes give you any amuſement, they ſhall be continued on future occaſions.

[Page 117]

I BY no means agree with you, that lyric poetry may almoſt be put among the arts, known to the ancients, but loſt to us. Indeed [...]f you conſider lyric poetry in its ancient ac [...]eptation only, as WEDDED (to uſe Milton's [...]trong expreſſion) to muſic, perhaps the modern [...]ay in this view yield to the ancient: tho even [...]his, I believe, might be controverted by thoſe who have heard Dryden's Ode, and Milton's [...]l Penſeroſo and L'Allegro, accompanied by [...]he muſic of Handel. But diveſting lyric [...]oetry of its ſcenic repreſentation, and, conſidering it ſolely as the amuſement of the clo [...]et, I deny that the modern is inferior to the [...]ncient: and indeed the ſimple peruſal or recital [...] now the only way in which any juſt parallel [...]an be inſtituted, as the ancient muſic is utterly [...]ſt.

[Page 118] NOR do I agree with you, that the modern lyric poets of any rank are leſs numerous than the ancient; and, to ſupport my difference of opinion, ſubmit to you ſome ſhort account of the former. This I do the more readily, as I know your ſtudies have not been much extended on this ſubject.

OUR reſearches on this head ſhall be confined to the modern lyric poetry of Italy, of France, and of England. The Spaniſh writers in this line, Lopez de Vega, Gongora, &c. I leave to thoſe who have a ſoul lofty enough to underſtand bombaſt, and grovelling enough to underſtand nonſenſe. Thoſe writers who do not know the art of gilding lead, may learn it of the Spaniſh poets. The works of Uz, the German, I cannot pretend to ſpeak of, as I hope I ſhall never ſtudy High Dutch; but, were they of any value, I doubt not but ſome of them would have appeared before this in a more intelligible tongue.

TO begin then with the Italians, Petrarca ſhines in the very firſt rank of honour, as of age. One or two of his Odes or Canzoni have [Page 119] already* been ſaid in a former letter to be excellent; and one excellent ode is as much preferable to a number of middling ones (thoſe of Horace for inſtance) as a piece of gold is to a number of pieces of ſilver. His Sonnets I do not conſider as lyric, but as elegiac.

NOT to ſpeak of Bembo, Caſa, or Molza, the odes of Chiabrera have often grand paſſages, tho he is more commonly a Seicento; by which name the Italians underſtand a writer of the ſeventeenth century, when a falſe taſte was introduced by Marini, in place of the pure ſlyle which had reigned till that time.

SOME of the Anacreontic odes of Menzini are as fine pieces as have been produced in that very delicate and difficult mode of compoſition.

GUIDI ſometimes catches the true lyric ſpirit, but more often his fire is loſt in ſmoke; ſo that he frequently reverſes the obſervation of Horace, non fumum ex fulgore, &c.

[Page 120] OF the works of Fulvio Teſti, I muſt profeſs much eſteem, tho they ſeem neglected by his countrymen. He appears to have attained the genuine texture of lyric thought and ſtyle more than any other Italian poet I know, without exception. His images are frequently very rich and happy. For example might he adduced the whole famous Ode to Montecuculli, which coſt the author his life, particularly the beginning:

Ruſcelletto orgoglioſo,
Che, ignobil figlio di non chiara fonte,
Il natal tenebroſo
Aveſti intra gl' orror d'iſpido monte;
E gia, con lenti paſſi,
Povero d'acque, iſti lambendo i ſaſſi.
Non ſtrepitar cotanto;
Non gir ſi torvo a ſtagellar la ſponda:
Che benche Maggio alquanto
Di liquefatto gel t'accreſca l'onde,
Sopraverrà ben roſto,
Eſiccator di tue gonfiezze, Agoſto.
Placido in ſeno a Teti
Gran re de fiumi il Po diſcoglie it corſo;
Ma di velati abeti
Macchine eccelſe ognor ſoſtien ſu'l dorſo;
Ne per arſura eſtiva
In a più breve confin ſtringe ſua viva.
[Page 121]
Tu le greggie, e i paſtori,
Minacciando per via ſpumi, e ribolli.
E, di non propri umori
Poſſeſſor momentaneo, il corno eſtolli.
Torpido, obliquo; e queſto
Del tuo ſol hai; tutto alieno e il reſto, &c.

THE Ode to the Duke of Modena, which begins the Second Part of his Poems, intitled, Opere glorioſe di ſua Altezza in pace e in guerra, is likewiſe very rich and noble. This image in particular may vie with Pindar for magnificence, and Anacreon for beauty:

Certo, irrigata di celeſti umori,
Si vezzoſa non ſuole
Rider in faccia al ſole,
La reina odorifera de fiori:
Che piu pregiati aſſai
Bella Virtu non ſparga odori, e rai.

THE Ode in the Firſt Part, All Signor Conte Gio. Battiſta Ronchi, exceeds any of Horace for elegant and pathetic morality: witneſs this ſtanza.

E noi, s'el tempo irevocabil fugge,
Soſpirerem, O Ronchi,
E colmarem d'inutil doglia il cuore?
[Page 122] Ah no! Cogliam da queſti campi il fiore,
Pria, che tempeſta il tronchi;
O maligno vapor l'arda, e l'adugge.
Folle chi piu ſi ſtrugge;
Il penſar al morir la morte affretta;
E piu tardi ſi muor, ſe men s'aſpetta.

THE Ode intitled, Si deteſta l'avaritia delle donne, is tranſcendent. Admire the ſudden beauty of this tranſition in it, and the genuine lyric manner of the ſtory.

O de la Gallia invitta
Non ultimo ſplendor, Brenno guerriero!
Io la tua gloria adoro, e il nome inchino,
Non gia perche ſconfitta
Per to Roma reſtaſſe, e'l ſeme altero
Quaſi ſpento di Giano, e di Quirino;
Non perche l'Aſia foſſe
Trofeo de le tue poſſe;
Ma perche d'empio cor gl' avari ecceſſi.
Sapeſti anco punir co' doni ſteſſi.
Era lunga ſtagione,
Che d'aſſedio crudel cinte tenea
L'Efeſie mura it capitan feroce;
Poich' il ferreo montone
Con gl' urti bellicoſi indarno avea
Dato al muro fedele aſſalto atroce:
[Page 123] Mà dubbio era l'evento,
Che pien d'alto ardimento
Oſava it difenſor fin ſovra'l vallo
Salir più volte a provocar il Gallo.
Quando d'aurei monili
L'armati ſchiere de Guerrier nemici
Vide avara Donzella irſen pompoſe;
De le ſpoglie gentili
Ben toſto avida fatta, i tetti amici
Patricida crudel tradir diſpoſe.
Patteggia il prezzo, e guida
Per la ciec' ombra infida
Il cauto re, dove per ſtrade aſcoſte
Ne le mura infelici entrar puo l'oſte.
Già d'orror, di ſingulti,
Di gemite, e di gridi Efeſo è piena,
Chi cede al vincitor, chi Cade eſangue:
Le fiamme indegni inſulti
Fanno a tetti dorati, e per l'arena
Scorrendo và da mille rivi il ſangue,
Amoroſe bellezze,
Prezioſe ricchezze,
Sono Gallici acquiſti: In ſi brev'ora
Regni, pompe, teſor Marte divora.
Sol con pupille aſciutte
Staſſi colei, de la città mirando
L'arſe reliquie, e i lacerari avanzi:
Vengon le ſchiere, e tutte
[Page 124] Sovr' il capo eſecrable, e nefando
Terſan quell'or, che deſio pur dianzi;
Ella, dal peſo appreſſa,
Ne la mercè promeſſa
Trova il gaſtigo: e, fra le gemme avolta,
Nel bramato teſor reſta ſepolta.
I ſhall conclude with the following fine ſpecimen of another Ode, Al Signor D. Virginio Ceſarini.
Rimanetevi in pace
Cittadine grandezze; Io quì deſio
Chiuder i giorni miei tra l'erbe, e i fiori.
D'eſequie honor fugace
Non habbia il mio morir, ne'l cener mio
Beva d'Affiria i lagrimanti odori;
Ma ſemplici paſtori
Spargan di latte, ove tra canti, e giochi,
De la ruſtica Pale ardono fuochi.
Da Numidica balza
Urna ſuperba à fabbricar' intento
Per me dotto ſcalpel marmi non tolga;
Godrò, che, dove innalza
Iſpida quercia i duri rami al vento,
Tumulo erboſo il mio natale accolga;
E ſe fia mai, che volga
Ninfa pietoſa à quella parte il piede,
Del coſtante mio cor lodi la fede.

[Page 125] YOU will excuſe my dwelling ſo long on the merits of a writer, whoſe worth (and it is great!) is almoſt unknown in this country. Certainly if the reverence of Italy ſecures the firſt place among her lyric poets to Petrarch, the ſecond is due to Teſti: but if juſt criticiſm were conſulted in the affair, I ſuſpect ſhe would divide the throne between them, and place the reſt at their footſtool. Every reader I believe muſt confeſs that there are in the above extracts the grandeur and opulence of Pindar, the neatneſs, beauty, and elegance of Anacreon, mingled with the pathos which the ancients aſcribe to Simonides. Perhaps in another century the Italians will begin to ſee and admire his merit; tho what cloud ſhould obſcure his ſplendor from them, I cannot gueſs. Yet ſome reaſon there muſt be for his not receiving due applauſe among his countrymen, as I know none of their critics who have ſpoken of him as he deſerves, and very few indeed who have mentioned him at all. I ſuppoſe he was a member of no academy.

LEST my Letter ſhould extend to an unreaſonable length, I ſhall defer my obſervations on the French and Engliſh lyric writers till my next.

[Page 126]

IF the French have any title to a legitimate poetry, it is that of the leſſer lyric ſtyle. Their language, pretty and familiar, can never riſe to the ſublime; which indeed, ſo far as I can ſee, their poets of any claſs have never yet attained, not excepting Corneille himſelf, whoſe vaunted Qu'il mourut is, to a Britiſh reader, a very trivial thought. We ſhould deny the French, with their epic poems, tragedies, and comedies in rime! any poetry at all, were it not for ſuch writers as La Fontaine in the leſſer narrative, and Malherbe, Chaulieu, De la Motte, and the elder Rouſſeau, in the lyric.

RONSARD was once a faſhionable lyric writer in France, and nothing can be a ſtronger proof of the falſe taſte of his age. We have in our days ſeen a writer faſhionable, becauſe he uſed a pedantic jargon of Roman Engliſh; Ronſard [Page 127] was likewiſe faſhionable in his day, becauſe he wrote in Grecian French. I hope by and bye the time will come when the moſt diſtant imitation of the ſentiments and manner of claſſic writers (for example, Boileau's of Horace and Juvenal) will become, as it deſerves, as ridiculous and contemptible as Ronſard's adoption of their verbage and idiom.

MALHERBE has great merit, as the refiner and reſtorer of the French language; but I know of only one ode he has written which may yet be read with pleaſure; and that is the one addreſſed to the Duke of Bellegarde.

CHAULIEU'S character and works you well know: he is read more, and De la Motte leſs, than he ought to be. The real beauties of De la Motte's odes are thicker ſown than thoſe of any other French writer.

ROUSSEAU'S ode To Fortune has been much praiſed; but, in my opinion, yields to that addreſſed to the Marquis de la Fare, which has great merit: witneſs theſe ſtanzas. [Page 128]

Loin que la Raiſon nous eclaire,
Et conduiſe nos actions;
Nous avons trouvé l'art d'en faire
L'orateur de nos Paſſions.
C'eſt un Sophiſte qui nous joūë:
Un vil complaiſant, qui ſe louë
A tous les fous de l'univers;
Qui s'habillans du nom de Sages,
La tiennent ſans ceſſe a leurs gages
Pour autoriſer leurs travers.
Mais vous, mortels, qui dans le monde
Croïant tenir les premiers rangs,
Plaignez l'ignorance profonde
De tant de peuples differens:
Qui confondez avec la brute
Ce Huron cachè fous ſa hute,
An ſeul inſtinct preſque reduit:
Parlez: Quel eſt le moins barbare
D'une Raiſon qui vous egare
Ou d'un Inſtinct qui le conduit?
La Nature, en treſors fertile,
Lui fait abondamment trouver
Tout ce qui lui peut etre utile;
Soigneuſe de le conſerver.
[Page 129] Content du partage modeſte,
Qu'il tient de la bonté celeſte,
Il vit ſans trouble et ſans ennui.
Et ſi le climat lui refuſe
Quelques biens, dont l'Europe abuſe—
Ce ne ſont plus des biens pour lui.
Couchè dans un antre ruſtique,
Du Nord il brave la rigeur:
Et notre luxe Aſiatique
N'a point enervé ſa vigeur.
Il ne regrette point la perte
De ces arts, dont la découverte
A l'homme a couté tant de ſoins;
Et qui, devenus neceſſaires,
N'ont fait qu'augmenter nos miſeres,
En multipliant nos beſoins.

THE merit of Greſſet, in ſome of his lyric poems, you well know. I need not therefore dwell upon it; and as I know no other of the French lyric writers who deſerve mention, I shall paſs to the Engliſh, after juſt obſerving, that Boileau's noted ode, ſo replete with tinſel, and with nonſenſe, proves that he had not the ſmalleſt ſpark of poetical genius; and that he could not even have ariſen above the meaneſt claſs of ſcriblers, had he not been the very ape [Page 130] of the ancients; and had the addreſs and agility of that animal ſometimes to jump on the ſhoulders of his maſters, and the impudent ignorance to look big when dreſſed in their cloaths.

THE liſt of Engliſh lyric poets contains the names of Waller, Milton, Cowley, Dryden, Collins, Gray, and Akenſide; not to mention the Earl of Surrey, who is more venerable from his age, than valuable from his compoſition. Waller has no merit, ſave that of Malherbe in France, that of polishing and refining the language of his country. He has even leſs merit than Malherbe, his pages being evident proofs of that old doubt, datur vacuum. I have read him over thrice, to ſee upon what his fame ſtands; but could not obſerve one image, ſentiment, or expreſſion that ſpoke the poet. The fact is, his fame is founded upon his eſtate, which was of five thouſand a year, a wide foundation for renown! His language, which is by no means valuable now, and of conſequence, no foundation for preſent fame, was the amber that preſerved his weeds from rotting: but as that is no longer in price, the [Page 131] whole editions of his works may be thrown into the fire, without any diminution Engliſh poetry. Why ſhould I dwell on the worth of Milton in his lyric works of Lycidas, Il Penſeroſo, L'Allegro; or of Dryden in his celebrated Ode? Cowley's Pindarics may accompany Waller's works with all my heart: one or two of his Anacreontics are good. The merit of Collins lies in his tender melancholy; his defects are confuſion and incorrectneſs of ſtyle. Gray is the firſt and greateſt of modern lyric writers; nay, I will venture to ſay, of all lyric writers: his works tho few (alas, how few!) uniting the perfections of every lyric poet, both of preſent and former times. Tho Akenſide, conſidered as a lyric writer, wants richneſs of images and melody, his ſtyle will ever render what he has done in this way valuable.

THUS I have now enumerated all the modern reputable authors of lyric poetry. They are not few: and I hope you are now convinced, that they yield not to the ancient in number, nor in merit; tho the lyric muſe is now almoſt confined to the private cell of [Page 132] ſtudy; and ſeldom appears in her ancient glory, attended by the richeſt muſic, and graced with the audience of heroes.

[Page 133]

THAT five acts ſhould be conſidered as an eſſential diviſion of a perfect drama, rather than any other number, is perhaps one of the ſtrangeſt inſtances its which reverence for a rule laid down by an ancient poet, whoſe infallibility has never yet been proved, has totally got the better of common ſenſe, and of the ſuperiority of modern ſcience.

I REMEMBER that Vitruvius gives a reaſon, perhaps as well grounded as any can be, for this arbitrary diviſion, namely, That the dramatic poets divided their fables into parts by a cubical ratio*. That is, as Mr. Dacier explains it, that the four ſongs of the chorus between the acts, joined with the prologue and exode, formed the cubic number ſix, the moſt perfect of numbers! A reaſon that could only [Page 134] have occurred to an architect; yet perhaps as well grounded as any that can be given for a cuſtom which admits of no reaſon. It ſomething reſembles a rule which Menage, in his notes on Taſſo's Aminta, tells us is laid down by the Signior Giovan Ogerio Gombaldo, a perſonage, as Menage takes care to inform us, intelligentiſſimo delle coſe della poeſia dramnatica, moſt expert in dramatic buſineſs. This rule is, that the principal ladies in dramatic poems ought not to appear at the opening of the piece, when the firſt ſcenes are ſuppoſed to paſs in the morning; if the affair is not very important indeed. For why? For reaſon good and weighty. Eſſendo proprio delle Donne it levarſi tardi, l'impiegar molto tempo in abbellirſi, a farſi aſpettare: It being uſual for ladies to riſe late, to take a long time to dreſs, and to give long expectation before they appear. Hear, ye dramatic poets of our impolite age! learn wiſdom: and bow with reverence to the manes of Signior Giovan Ogerio Gombaldo!

JESTING apart, we all know that Horace's rule is not authoriſed by the Greek maſters of the drama, their plays being often divided into [Page 135] three, four, ſix, ſeven, eight, but ſeldom, if ever, into five acts; in the intervals between theſe diviſions the chorus ſung, and interludes were performed. For Caſaubon, in his learned work De Satyrica Poeſi, will have it, that, between the acts, the ſcene was often totally vacant of the tragic repreſentation; and that the ΣΑΤΥΡΙΚΑ, or farces, were played to relieve the audience from the melancholy feelings of tragedy; a practice we would recommend as a further improvement, to thoſe ſemiliterati among us who wiſh to revive the ancient chorus accompanied with muſic, but who would ſtare, were they told by ſomebody, who had read two books, that they are as far from the ancient drama as ever; THE WHOLE OF IT BEING ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED WITH MUSIC. I think, however, the taſte of the ancients might be vindicated from Caſaubon's accuſation, as I differ from that learned man in his interpretation of the paſſage on which it is founded. It is of Marius Victorinus, the grammarian, and ſtands as follows: Haec apud Graecos metri ſpecies (iambica) frequens eſt ſub hac conditionis lege, ut not heroas, aut reges, ſed Satyros inducat; ludendi, jocandique cauſa, quo ſpectatoris [Page 136] animus inter triſtes res tragicas Satyrorum jocis relaxetur. Caſaubon obſerves, that the ſame phraſe, inter res tragicas, is likewiſe uſed on the ſame occaſion by Diomedes, another grammarian, which I ſuppoſe only ariſes from the one's copying the other; and that the phraſe in both only implies, inter cogitationes rerum tragicarum; as a ſpectator may be ſaid to be, inter res tragicas, "occupied with tragic affairs," as well immediately after the performance of a tragedy as during its repreſentation.

BUT to come to the point, I have a great veneration for the ancients, but a far greater for truth and common ſenſe: and it may, I believe, be ſafely aſſerted, that had the ancients arrived at our perfection in the drama (a ſubject perhaps of future diſcuſſion), they would, upon omiſſion of the chorus, have confined their drama to three as of modern duration, as the moſt proper form and length. Douglas, one of the ſhorteſt of our tragedies, has upwards of 1800 lines; the Edipus Tyrannus of Sophocles, one of the longeſt, of antiquity, has but 1536, with all its choruſes, which make no part of the proper dramatic action, and [Page 137] only correſpond to our muſic between the acts. Deduct 300 lines belonging to the Chorus of Edipus, and Douglas will exceed it by 600 lines, or the length of two acts. If Douglas therefore had but three acts, it were equal in length to the ancient tragedies.

THIS, with an admirer of the ancients, may perhaps afford a ſtrong argument for the reduction of our drama to a ſhorter duration. But let us bring ſtill ſtronger arguments from our own reaſon, nay from that of the ancients themſelves.

PLATO has obſerved in his Parmenides, that A WHOLE ACTION always conſiſts of three parts, a beginning, a middle, and an end. Ariſtotle, in his book on Poetry, has with great juſtice applied this obſervation (but without acknowleging its author) to the drama: connecting it with the conduct of the fable in theſe words, ‘The beginning is that part which gives no room to ſuppoſe that any thing ought to have preceded it’ (he means in the repreſentation) ‘and which neceſſarily implies that ſomething muſt follow. The end is [Page 138] quite the reverſe; for it implies that nothing ſhould follow it, but that ſomething muſt have preceded it. The middle implies, that ſomething muſt precede it, and likewiſe ſomething follow.’ This obſervation may be far more happily employed in the diviſion of the drama. The firſt act, or beginning, will then fix the ſpectator's attention, by opening the plot, and raiſing his expectation: the ſecond, or middle, will further continue his perplexity, till he is utterly at a loſs to conceive how the piece will terminate; and the third, or end, will relieve him from that embaraſſment and agreeable anxiety, after it is carried to the utmoſt, by an unexpected, yet natural cataſtrophe.

ARISTOTLE likewiſe praiſes the length adjudged to the ancient drama, becauſe the ſpectator was able clearly to recollect and compare every circumſtance from beginning to end. The ancient drama, as we have already ſeen, is ſhorter, by the duration of two acts, than the modern; and the obſervation of Ariſtotle will not apply to the modern drama, for it is ſo long, that it is not eaſy for the ſpectator to [Page 139] recapitulate, and obſerve the progreſs of ſo lengthened a ſtory, perplexed and ravelled as every good drama is.

ANOTHER ſtrong reaſon is, that the authors of modern dramatic perfomances always labour ſo much under the duration they muſt extend their plot to, that they are forced, of neceſſity, to have recourſe to foreign and adventitious circumſtances, merely to eke out their pieces to a proper length. Hence our love epiſodes and under plots; and many of the other glaring abſurdities of the modern theatre; our dramatic writers never having found out, that the length alloted was more than any pure unmixed ſingle action (one of the moſt eſſential attributes of the drama) would admit of, either according to the practice of the ancients, or common reaſon and obſervation.

FROM theſe arguments, I look upon the diviſion of the fable into three acts, into a beginning, a middle, and an end, as the moſt perfect, compact, and elegant, that the higher drama will admit. Tho indeed I ſee not ſo great reaſon againſt four as againſt five acts, [Page 140] when the plot requires a longer period than uſual to adjuſt and deduce. Five and ſeven ſtrike every mind as uncouth and heterogeneous numbers. This remark, you will ſay, has no great depth, nor philoſophy; but what have our amuſements, the ſubjects of our preſent examination, to do with depth or philoſophy? Five modern acts may be looked upon as almoſt too long a duration for any fable fit for dramatic repreſentation: four have been admitted by one of our beſt living writers with much ſucceſs. The uſual diviſion of the drama here combated is one proof, among many, of the power of cuſtom above that of truth and of nature:

Ond' è dal corſo ſuo quaſi ſmarrita
Noſtra natura, vinta dal coſtume.

[Page 141]

THERE is a figure of ſpeech which I know not if you have taken notice of, and yet it occurs in one or two popular writers, nay writers who have ſome juſt claim to praiſe: if, as a trope, it muſt: have a Greek name, call it ANOIA, in Engliſh UTTER ABSURDITY,

CERVANTES has ſhewn no ſmall ſkill in the uſe of this figure, in Book III. Chapters IX. XI. of the Hiſtory of Don Queſada, where we find Sancho had his proviſion ſafe after it was taken from him by the galley ſlaves; and where, almoſt in one page, we read that he has loſt his aſs, that he is riding on him, and that he walks, becauſe he has no ſuch humble convenience; when the truth is, that the author had ſo far gone to ſleep, as to forget that no miracles are now wrought upon aſſes; and that if Gines de Paſſamonte had him, Sancho could not. In Book IV. chap. III. we alſo find the hero of the work draw his ſword after he was robbed of it.

[Page 142] I MIGHT enumerate one or two more inſtances from proſe writers of repute, but ſhall content myſelf with adding one inſtance from a Roman, and one from a Britiſh poet, as the figure does not ſtand much in need of illuſtration.

VIRGIL in his Eneid, book XII. v. 35 makes Latinus ſpeak thus to Turnus:

— recalent noſtro Tiberina fluenta
Sanguine adhuc, campique ingentes oſſibus albent.
In the name of all the profundity of dulneſs, how could the ſtreams be yet hot with their blood, and their bones whiten the ground?

JAMES THOMSON in his poem called Spring, among his Seaſons, has, with great tenderneſs of heart, pleaded, as from his very bowels, againſt the inhuman practice of killing oxen to make beef ſtakes; and almoſt told us he would rather want his ſtake than have any ſuch doings. Nay, what is ſtill more tender, he adviſes us not to torment poor worms, by putting them upon the hook alive.—Upon the hook! For what purpoſe? Why to catch fiſh ſure; which he proceeds to give us cool directions for, as a fine diverſion.

[Page 143]
Strait as above the ſurface of the flood
They wanton riſe, or, urg'd by hunger, leap,
Then fix with gentle twitch the barbed hook;
Some lightly toſſing to the graſſy bank,
And to the ſhelving ſhore ſlow dragging ſome.

O JAMIE, JAMIE! Had you no bowels for fiſh? The poor man forgot that fiſh had feelings, I ſuppoſe, becauſe he was fond of catching and eating them; whereas killing of oxen was quite out of his way.

[Page 144]

I PROPOSE in this Letter to continue and conclude my examination of the merits of Virgil as a poet, which I began on a former occaſion*. This ſcrutiny has already been extended to his Bucolics and Georgics; and ſhall, in the laſt place, be applied to his Eneid, which is confeſſed by his admirers to be much inferior to his Georgics; a poem before ſhewn to have very little claim to applauſe. Let us examine this Eneid with regard to its plan, its characters, and its language, the grand diviſions of epic poetry.

IF we take ever ſo curſory a view of the fable of the Eneid, we ſhall perceive it to be ſervilely copied from Homer's two immortal poems, the Iliad and the Odyſſey. The laſt of theſe gives the general deſign of the firſt ſix books of the Eneid, the Iliad of the ſix laſt. [Page 145] The ſtory of Dido, which is conſidered as the only proof that Virgil gives of originality or genius in all the Eneid, even by his admirers themſelves, is a moſt injudicious and abſurd imitation of Homer's Circe. It is injudicious, becauſe Dido from her courage and manly ſpirit, ſhewn in leading a colony from her native realm to a remote and barbarous land, and ſettling and ruling that colony there, muſt in the book of human nature, page firſt, be read to have been a character very little ſuſceptible of tender paſſions, far leſs of carrying them to ſuch exceſs as Virgil repreſents. It is injudicious, becauſe Dido had formerly borne the loſs of a huſband without deſperation; n [...]y had ſhewn a ſpirit upon the occaſion almoſt too heroic for a woman: there is therefore no conſiſtency in the character of Dido; which is certainly one of the groſſeſt faults any writer can be guilty of. It is injudicious, becauſe there is likewiſe in this love ſtory an inconſiſtency in the character of Eneas, which any ſchool-boy would be aſhamed of; the character of Eneas is that of perfect piety: the PIOUS ENEAS gratifies the irregular paſſions of a fond woman; and then, in return for the kindneſs [Page 146] ſhe hath ſhewn to him and his followers, he forſakes her without remorſe, becauſe the gods command him ſo to do. Impious Virgil! would a Greek reader have cried; Homer only wounded the bodies of the gods, and their leſſer morals; but you have ſtruck at their very vitals, their eſſence! You have made them guilty of cruelty, of injuſtice, of ingratitude itſelf! Eneas, if he was pious, ought to have known that his gods could not be guilty of impiety; and to have diſdained any imputation to the contrary, tho communicated in a viſion. This ſtory is laſtly utterly abſurd, and might have been added to our inſtances of that figure of ſpeech, becauſe in defiance of chronology, and of propriety, Virgil brings characters together as living at the ſame period, the no leſs than 410 years aſunder. What ſhould we ſay of a writer, who ſhould now introduce into an epic poem Alexander the Great making love to Julia the daughter of Auguſtus? Yet this were not ſo abſurd by near a century as the amour of Eneas with Dido.

WHY ſhould I be condemned to follow Virgil thro all his feeble imitations of Homer, in [Page 147] the plan and conduct of the Eneid? Virgil's ſtorm is Homer's, tho Homer would not have begun with it. The converſations of the gods are all Homer's, Virgil meets Venus, Ulyſſes Nauſicaa. The ſtory of Dido hath already been ſpoken of. Homer hath games! Virgil hath games; his very ſhips, which he introduces as a novelty, prove him incapable of originality, for their accidents are from Homer's races. Homer's ſhips are on fire, Virgil's are on fire. If Ulyſſes goes to hell, Eneas goes to hell. If Homer enumerates the forces of both parties; ſo doth Virgil. The tale of Cacus is indeed a puerility; and the paſſage, in which Eneas is repreſented as going his own ambaſſador, an abſurdity that would not have entered even into the dreams of Homer. Virgil indeed found the latter ludicrous invention, of a prince and general leaving his army when ſurrounded by enemies, in order to go an embaſſy, which the faithful Achates was certainly the ſit perſon to mediate: I ſay, he found this neceſſary to introduce the affected and ſilly epiſode of Niſus and Euryalus, which is wondrous pitiful. Homer deſcribes the ſhield of Achilles; ſo doth Virgil that of Eneas. Virgil then ſends Iris to Turnus, [Page 148] to let him know that Eneas was abſent from his army at a time when there was the ſtrongeſt neceſſity for his preſence; and that it is a lucky hit.

Turne quod optanti divum promittere nemo
Auderet, volvenda dies en attulit ultro.
Nay, to increaſe the abſurdity, ſhe tells Turnus that his wiſe competitor is gone, not to procure a proper martial aid, but to arm the country, collectos armat agreſtes. Wonderful contrivance! How we ſhould have laughed at it in Blackmore! Turnus takes the advice, and attacks the Trojan camp, becauſe Hector had attacked that of the Greeks. The night ſcene and ſlaughter is a poor copy of that in the Iliad. Ulyſſes and Diomed were the proper perſonages of ſuch an action, not two boys like Niſus and Euryalus: incredulus odi. The whole ſcene of the camp is ſuch a copy of Homer's ſcene at the ſhips, as a wooden print is of a painting of Corregio. In the tenth book the gods come in again to fill up the ſtory. Who will hint the moſt diſtant compariſon of the return of Eneas with that of Achilles, tho evidently a paltry copy? Achilles leaves the fight from the moſt potent reaſons; Eneas leaves the [Page 149] camp and the conflict, merely that he may return. The death of Pallas (by the bye a moſt improper name for a man, as it breeds an eternal confuſion with the goddeſs Pallas or Minerva) is that of Patroclus; quantum mutatus ab illo! The funeral of Pallas is alſo that of Patroclus. The embaſſies for burying the dead, &c. &c. are all from Homer: not a death in the ſubſequent battle but from him. The combat of Eneas and Turnus, the leading feature of the twelfth and laſt book, every one perceives at firſt ſight to be a ſervile and pitiful imitation of that of Achilles and Hector.

SO much for the plan and fable of the Eneid. If we examine its characters, we ſhall find it ſtill more defective; defective to a degree below contempt. It hath been ſaid by Virgil's admirers, that Homer had exhauſted ſtrong and martial characters; therefore Virgil was forced to have recourſe to gentle ones: gentle characters for an heroic poem! The fact is, that all Virgil's characters, ſuch as they are, conſiſt of copies, or remote imitations, of Homer; and that Homer's ſubſervient, his loweſt, characters are Virgil's firſt and higheſt ones. Wonderful [Page 150] poet! Judicious imitator! To compare all the characters were tedious and needleſs; but be aſſured, that, upon accurate enquiry, every character whatever of the Eneid may be found in the Iliad or Odyſſey in as ſtrong a degree as the plot and leading incidents above pointed out.

TO conclude with the language of the Eneid, there is not one ſentiment or image in it but may be found in Homer, or other Greek poets. And I firmly believe from the obſervations of Macrobius on this head, that there is not one phraſe in it that is not ſtolen from preceding Latin poets; that writer having told us in his Saturnalia, and indeed proved in many inſtances, that Virgil's whole poetry is only a cento taken from more ancient authors.

SUCH is the Eneid, which the author with good reaſon on his death-bed condemned to the flames; and, had it ſuffered that fate, real poetry would have loſt nothing by it. I have ſaid, that, notwithſtanding all, Virgil deſerves his fame; for his fame is now confined to ſchools and academies; and his ſtyle (the pickle that has preſerved his mummy from corruption) is [...]r [...] and exquiſite.

[Page 151]

AS your young friend has intereſt enough to become an under-graduate in the State, I have no doubt but his talents will open a way to offices of the firſt importance, provided that his natural parts are cultivated by ſolid and elegant ſcience. I know that he puts no great value on erudition; nay, thinks it rather an impediment to a man meant for public buſineſs; but, depend on it, he will find himſelf grievouſly miſtaken. He will ſoon perceive that a mind without learning, however ſtrong it may be in itſelf, ſtands upon no baſis; and reſembles a ſtrong tower, built upon a volcano, and in perpetual danger of ſinking into the abyſs of ignorance. As I ſincerely wiſh him well, and know his regard for my opinion, I ſhall ſubmit to you a few thoughts on the ſubject, which you may communicate to him at a proper hour.

[Page 152] LORD BACON, one of the wiſeſt men that any age or country hath produced, ſpeaking of political affairs, obſerves, ‘that no kind of men love buſineſs for itſelf, but thoſe that are learned; for other perſons love it for profit, as an hireling that loves the work for the wages. Or for honour, as becauſe it beareth them up in the eves of men, and refreſheth their reputations which otherways would wear. Or becauſe it putteth them in mind of their fortune, and giveth them occaſion to pleaſure, and diſpleaſure. Or becauſe it exerciſeth ſome faculty wherein they take pride; and ſo entertaineth them in good humour, and pleaſing conceits towards themſelves. Or becauſe it advanceth any other their ends. So that, as it is ſaid of untrue valours, that ſome men's valours are in the eyes of them that look on; ſo ſuch mens induſtries are in the eyes of others, or at leaſt in regard of their own deſignments. Only learned men love buſineſs as an action according to nature; as agreeable to health of mind as exerciſe is to health of body; t [...]king pleaſure in the action itſelf, and not in the purchaſe. So that of all men they are [Page 153] the moſt indefatigable, if it be towards any buſineſs that can hold or detain their mind.’ This quotation, tho long, is ſo completely to the point, that no ſentence of it could be ſpared. The argument contained in it is extremely forcible, and ought to weigh with the moſt unthinking mind; for he obſerves, that none but men of learning love buſineſs of ſtate for itſelf; and certainly, if a man takes no delight in, makes not his ſupreme pleaſure of, his buſineſs, let it be of whatever kind, he will never manage it well, much leſs riſe to eminence in it.

A STILL ſtronger argument, if poſſible, may be brought from the ſuperiority which wide ſcience gives a young ſtateſman; almoſt equal to that of experience itſelf. Nay, I even doubt, whether in this particular inſtance, learning doth not exceed experience as much as it falls below it in the practice of domeſtic life. For no ſtateſman, let his age and practice be ever ſo great, can from his proper experience, have ſo much ſkill in the incidents of government, as a man of ſolid and extended ſcience, to whom all climes and all ages are preſent. A mind without erudition may be bold and acute, [Page 154] but cannot be vaſt and powerful. By learning a man becomes an inhabitant of the world at large*, and a cotemporary of all ages. The excellent author, above quoted, obſerves elſewhere that books are like ſhips which paſs thro the vaſt ſeas of time, and make the moſt diſtant ages to participate of the wiſdom, illuminations, and inventions, the one of the other. Shall we apply this beautiful figure to our preſent ſubject, and infer, how much ſuperior muſt that merchant be who deals upon ſuch boundleſs ſtores imported from all ages, and from all countries, to him who trades upon his own narrow home-ſtock?

PRESCIENCE, which is ſo great a quality in a ſtateſman, is only acquirable by wide knowlege of the events of former ages. From that knowlege he may, in very many caſes, foretell what will happen, and of conſequence uſe his prudence to guard againſt it. Very few accidents in political affairs are unique: the ſeeds of moſt of them have been ſown in the wide field of univerſal nature; and they have produced ſimilar fruit, tho at remote periods.

[Page 155] YOU will perceive that moſt of the above reflections apply to that kind of erudition which is to be found in hiſtory, but above all in lives and memoirs. Theſe may indeed be ſaid to contain the ſolid ſcience of a ſtateſman: but, if he wiſhes to be perfect, elegant literature hath likewiſe great utility. If a man hath, ambition to aim at high rank in the ſcale of government, nothing is ſo likely to effect that end as eloquence: and Cicero hath ſhewn, and indeed good ſenſe muſt convince us, that no man can be a great orator without a large and unbounded fund of ideas. Such a fund is only to be acquired by ſtudy, and by appropriation of the ideas of others. Hence the neceſſity of expanding the memory over the whole circle of knowlege.

I SHALL only further obſerve, before I conclude, that the great examples to be found in ancient hiſtory operate like electrical fire when they meet with congenial minds. The greateſt modern ſtateſmen have caught the flame of their inſpiration from the altars which ancient Greece erected to honour and to virtue. And for theſe altars built by ſolid ſcience Greece [Page 156] was indebted to Homer, who ſtands firſt in the claſs of polite literature. From Homer Greece derived that ſpirit which made her the wonder of other nations. Immortal bard! thou alone didſt ſound the charge at Thermopylae! Thou alone didſt conquer at Salamis and at Marathon! That a paltry corner of Europe ſhould ſtand firſt in the rolls of fame, is ſolely owing to thy divine genius!

IF even the ſtudy of Latin literature could inflame Rienzi*, a perſon of no rank or expectation, ſo far as to operate his deliverance of Rome from the papal tyranny, in the darkeſt period of her hiſtory; tho his talents were unhappily not equal to his enthuſiaſm, and he was unable to digeſt a great fortune, as Pindar expreſſes it; ſurely the ſtudy of the Grecian literature, to which the other is but a ſhadow, hath effected, and will effect ſtill greater things. Plutarch in particular is a writer that ſhould be the conſtant companion of a virtuous ſtateſman. [Page 157] The examples to be found in his lives of perſons and of actions, ſo replete with virtue and ſublimity as almoſt to exceed human nature, muſt elevate every noble and generous mind to a wonderful degree. Sage of Cheronea, Homer, it is true, kindled the flame; but by thy cares only it is preſerved bright for the perpetual uſe of mankind!

[Page 158]

IN the garden of ſcience, as in other gardens, it coſts more trouble to root out weeds than to plant flowers. I look upon the idea commonly entertained by men of letters, in reſpect to Auguſtan ages, to be one of theſe weeds: and ſhall here ſhew you what may be done to root it out and deſtroy it.

VELLEIUS PATERCULUS, an affected hiſtorian, was the firſt author of this fooliſh idea: which other writers have taken on truſt, as uſual, without ſacrificing to common ſenſe on the occaſion.

WE are told by French critics, and you know that Mr. Addiſon, at the ſame time that he ridiculed our attention to French faſhions, yet held up French critics, who are far worſe, as worthy of all our reverence: I ſay we are told by French critics, that there have been [Page 159] four Auguſtan ages, as they call them. The firſt is that of Greece, in the time of Philip of Macedon, in which flouriſhed Socrates, Plato, Demoſthenes, Ariſtotle, Apelles, Phidias, Praxiteles, Thucydides, Xenophon, Eſchylus, Euripides, Sophocles, Ariſtophanes, Menander, Philemon. The ſecond is that of Rome, under Auguſtus, near or under whoſe reign flouriſhed Laberius, Catullus, Lucretius, Cicero, Livy, Virgil, Horace, Propertius, Tibullus, Ovid, Phaedrus, Vitruvius. The third is again that of Rome, after the revival of learning, and contains the names of Arioſto, Sannazaro, Guicciardini, Vida, Bembo, Sadolet, Macchiavel, Michael Angelo, Raffaello, Tiziano. The fourth and laſt is that of France, under Louis XIV. in which ſtand Corneille, Moliere, Racine, &c. &c.

NOW you muſt obſerve, my dear friend, that we are gravely told that genius was, during theſe ages, carried to its greateſt height in theſe reſpective countries. A remark of ſuperlative futility. In the Auguſtan age of Greece, for example, where is the name of Homer, who flouriſhed about 300 years before? Where is [Page 160] that of Plutarch, one of the greateſt writers that Greece produced, and alone worth ten of theſe Auguſtan authors, but who unhappily came more than 400 years after? In that of Rome where is Tacitus, almoſt their only original writer? In the age of Leo X. where is Taſſo, the firſt of the Italian poets? Where Petrarca? Where Dante? Where Metaſtaſio? Is not Greſſet yet living, one of the beſt writers France hath produced? Where is Buffon? Where poor Jean Jaques? Where Voltaire?

THE ſuperior good ſenſe and obſervation of the Engliſh hath taught them to ſix no Auguſtan age for their country. May her Auguſtan age be a ſaeculum ſaeculorum! The names of Chaucer, of Shakſpere, of Milton, of Gray, are as remote as thoſe of Bacon and Newton: centuries elapſe between them. Nature, it would ſeem, according to the inventers of theſe Auguſtan ages, illuminates other countries by conſtellations of petty ſtars; but in Britain concentrates the rays of many into one, which dazzles her rival nations with a luxury of light.

[Page 161] IN political events, my friend, I lately had occaſion to obſerve that nature acts much in one way; they depend indeed upon the paſſions of mankind, which are always the ſame; and upon the rules of human prudence, which admit of no great variation. But in reſpect to genius, which rules nature, and is not ruled by her, the caſe is very different. True genius is as much above regulation in the period of his appearance, as in all his other attributes. And the principal writers of any country are as ſeldom ſeen together as eagles. They appear ſingle upon the wild and loſty rocks of genius baſking in the noontide ſun of fame.

[Page 162]

AS I find my remarks on the laſt edition of Shakſpere were not diſpleaſing to you, I ſhall now preſent you with ſuch as have occurred on ſome of the other volumes.

Vol. IV. TWELFTH NIGHT. P. 190. ‘Would you have a love ſong, or a ſong of good life?’ A ſong of good life means a pious ditty. The clown's queſtion is ironical.

P. 204. 'It is ſilly ſooth.' Every boy knows this means, It is ſilly in ſooth, It is of genuine ſimplicity.

P. 210. Mettle of India, the reading of the old copy is right. The mettle of India, the gold, is Shakſpere's. To the nettle his commentators are welcome.

[Page 163] P. 215. The ſquabble between the two wiſe commentators, about the meaning of Shakſpere's obſcenity, is truly diverting. In other editions, an N is put among the other capitals, and makes one of theſe jokes in which Shakſpere appears but one of the people.

P. 261. It is ſtrange to ſee how the commentators have here miſtaken the clown's character, who ſays to Malvolio, ‘Are you not mad indeed, or do you but counterfeit?’ They would fain make him talk ſenſe. Shakſpere made him talk nonſenſe in character. The queſtion means, Are you really in your ſenſes, or do you but act as tho you were? As tho a mad man could counterfeit a wiſe man! Abſurd, but highly in character! Praiſes equally applicable to the annotators.

WINTER'S TALE, p. 385. Cadiſs, in Scotland, I am informed, ſtill means lint. Cadiſs is put upon a wound, is uſed to ſtop holes in barrels, &c. &c. The ſervant is talking a jumble of nonſenſe; and ignorantly mingles inkles and caddiſſes with cambrics and lawns.

[Page 164] MACBETH, Act I. Sc. I. The power of raiſing thunder was one of the imaginary prerogatives of theſe imaginary beings, the witches. See Wierus de Praeſtigiis Daemonum: a ſingular author who had the merit of being the firſt to diſcredit the belief in witchcraft, and thereby to ſave the lives of many of his innocent deluded fellow creatures. Yet ſuch was the frenzy of his age, that he actually paſſed for a magician, who had written with a view to defend the fraternity from condign puniſhment. True it is, that after his work, in order to diſcredit the credulity of magic, he wrote a ſmall treatiſe containing the names of ſixty-eight daemon potentates, with directions for evoking them. O caecas hominum mentes!

P. 447. 'From the nave to the chops,' implies, I doubt not, that Macbeth ripped the rebel up from the navel to the neck. At any rate, if we muſt have nonſenſe, that of Shakſpere is preferable to that of his commentators at any time.

P. 447. 'Take my milk for gall.' That is, take my milk inſtead of the gall whereon [Page 165] ye live, for my temperament is now replete with ſuch diabolical bitterneſs that I might nurture daemons.

P. 480. ‘Look like the innocent flower, but be the ſerpent under it,’ is one of the moſt exquiſite poetical figures in the world: and is a fine inſtance how much a trite remark, ſuch as, The ſerpent lurks under the flower, may be improved.

P 493. 'Weïrd ſiſters.' Upon the firſt appearance of this word weïrd ſhould have been given the following learned explanation from Mr. Ruddiman's Gloſſary to Gavin Douglas's Virgil. ‘WEIRD SISTERS, Parcae. Skinner derives it from the German werhen, to conſecrate. Some would rather bring it from word, as the Latin fatum comes from fari, and as the Latin dictio is frequently taken for the reſponſe of an oracle, or God. It comes certainly from the Anglo Saxon ƿyrd, fate, fortune: Francice Urdi, fatum, &c. and theſe again are moſt probably from the Belgic and Teutonic werden, Anglo Saxon ƿeorthan, &c. to come to paſs. Becauſe fate, or deſtiny, muſt [Page 166] neceſſarily come to paſs: whence the Scotiſh wae worth him; in Chaucer and Pierce Plowman, wo worth, that is woe befall him. ’ It may be added, that in Chaucer the deſtinies are often called werdes.

P. 494.

'Go bid thy miſtreſs when my
'drink is ready
'She ſtrike upon the bell.'
It was the cuſtom in the feudal ages to drink wine at going to bed. See an extract of a Provenzal poem to this effect in St. Palaye, notes fur la Iere partie. It was called in France le vin de coucher. In the ancient liſt of the French kings houſhold, le vin de coucher is mentioned as a perquiſite annexed to certain offices.

P. 521. 'What in our houſe.' We are as much obliged to the commentators for giving us ſuch notes as thoſe of Warburton on this place, as we are to Shakſpere for his ſcenes of fools and madmen, interſperſed with pathetic ones. Well may Akenſide make Shakſpere ſay that Warburton's conceits are more ſtrange

Than his own fools and madmen knew.
Ode to Thomas Edwards Eſq.
Why preſerve them, ye his wiſe ſucceſſors?

[Page 167] P. 537. 'At firſt and laſt a hearty welcome.' Can any one miſunderſtand this? Sure nobody but the commentator. Need I add, that it means, At the beginning and at the end of the feaſt, an hearty welcome?

P. 558. What is the meaning of the phraſe Tho bladed corn be lodged. Does it imply tho corn juſt bladed be blown fiat on the ground? Surely if it does, it forms a woeful anticlimax with the other image in this line, and trees blown down. Or does it mean a greater prodigy, does the lodged corn ſhew premature blades, by a tranſpoſition of the words not uncommon to Shakſpere?

BY the bye corn was, with the ancient Romans, eſteemed a ſpecial object of witchcraft or enchantment; witneſs this law of the Twelve Tables: Qui fruges excantaſſet, poenas dato; neve alienam ſegetem pellexeris excantando; ne incantanto, ne agrum defruganto.

P. 562. The ſublime apparition of the future kings, which has ſuch a ſtrong theatrical effect, is, I think, founded on a paſſage of Arioſto. See his ſcene in Merlin's cave.

[Page 168] P. 593. 'Patch' is a common appellation for a fool with the old Engliſh writers, alluding to the patched or motled coat formerly worn by ſtate fools. So in The Praiſe of Folie, tranſlated from Eraſmus, by Sir Thomas Chaloner, and printed by Bertholete, 1549, 4to. b. l. fig. G. 1. ‘More happie and blisfull than is this kynde of men whom commonly ye call fooles, doltes, ideotes, and paches. ’ And on the oppoſite page, ‘I have ſubtraied theſe my [...]elie paches.

P. 594. ‘My way of life is fallen into the ſere the yellow leaf.’ A moſt fooliſh emendation of May of life, for way of life, is here raſhly admitted into the text. Shakſpere's metaphor here challenged is My way, my path, of life, which formerly was among the green, the flouriſhing woods of ſummer, is now fallen into the fading groves of autumn. Can a juſter metaphor be uſed? The reading in the text is quite abſurd. How could May be ſuddenly changed into autumn? Was Macbeth in the May, in the ſpring of life? Or, to conclude all, Is Shakſpere always correct in his metaphors? Yet obſerve, and laugh, when theſe annotators correct Shakſpere, they correct him into blunders.

[Page 169] P. 608. If the ſtage direction, Re-enter ſighting and Macbeth is ſtain, operates againſt the real ſpeeches of the perſons, why reprint it from the folio? The reader is doubtleſs much obliged to the ſapient commentators, for ranſacking muſty folios to treat him with garbage!

Vol. V. KING JOHN, p. 19. Philip is a common addreſs from children to young ſparrows kept tame when they feed them; the note of the bird ſomething reſembling the ſound of that name.

P. 103. The vow is not in the forms of chivalry.

P. 285. FIRST PART OF HENRY IV. Gildon, in his derivation of Hotſpur's rant, proves himſelf a critic twice the ſize of Warburton.

P. 287. 'Half-faced fellowſhip.' The image appears to me to be borrowed from coins, in which only half the countenance appears. Now countenance implies protection, perſonal friendſhip, and aſſiſtance, as well as the face. Witneſs the pun of a certain noble lord, [Page 170] who, to procure a friend of his an election for member of parliament, employed a citizen of the burgh canvaſſed for, who had a very remarkable face of deep ſcarlet ſtudded with black lead. He however exerted himſelf ſo well as to procure my lord's friend the election. My lord was upon the huſtings at the time, and, after thanking the electors, he turned round to his agent with theſe words, ‘You will allow me to return my thanks to you, Sir, in particular, for the very remarkable countenance which you have ſhewn us thro the whole of this affair.’ Shakſpere uſes half-faced for half-countenanced: a fellowſhip to which the parties gave but half their genuine friendſhip and concurrence.

P. 288. Waſp-tongued is a metaphor nothing like ſo hard as many uſed by Shakſpere; and implies, with a tongue poiſonous and keen as the ſting of a waſp. Let us, with due gratitude, return thanks to Mr. Steevens for his ſkilful quotation to prove that Shakſpere knew where the ſting of a waſp lies; not in its mouth but in its tail!

[Page 171] P. 311. ‘To play with mammets, and to tilt with lips.’ Mammet is from the French mamelle, a woman's breaſt. The connection of the text calls for this interpretation.

P. 342. Count Dillon, in his Travels thro Spain, gives us an explanation of the etymology of the name of that liquor called ſack, which is more plauſible than that of the very ingenious annotator. It is, ſays he, from [...]aque, a ſkin to put wine in. Let me add, that the Spaniſh word is derived from the Arabic, and now ſignifies, metaphorically, a drunkard. It is ſometimes ſpelled çaque.

P. 344. Falſtaſſe was not here, or in the room, which ſaves the prince from the charge of an abſolute falſity. The prince's ſpeech contains not one lye; it hath only diſſimulation, and might have been ſpoken by a quaker.

P. 366. Favours are a common expreſſion for white cockades, worn in the hat at marriages, and the like gifts from brides, &c. &c.

P. 391. And behold it came to paſs, that Oliver Cromwell was diſcovered in theſe days to have ſtudied his ſpeeches in Shakſpere!

[Page 172] SECOND PART OF HENRY IV. P. 443. The rowel, every reader of a ſingle book of heraldry knows, was always a minute wheel radiated like a ſtar. Up to the rowel head implies, up to the head of one of the ſpikes with which the rowel was radiated.

P. 472. Rampalian is from ramper, a ſtout fellow or wench, as raſcalion from raſcal: fuſtilarian is a fellow dreſt in fuſtian. Mr. Steevens ſhould reſerve his erudite etymologies for the next edition of his friend's dictionary.

P. 516. Shakſpere's idea of a tempeſt hanging the waves in the ſhrouds, was certainly ſtrong enough, without his annotators puſhing it to bombaſt. Mr. Steevens muſt have a bold heart, and certainly deſerves to be made an admiral for his notion, that a tempeſt that hangs waves in the top ſhrouds of a veſſel is a moderate tempeſt. Pray do turn poet, Mr. Steevens, and give us an immoderate tempeſt by all means, that we may know what it is to joke and be in earneſt!

P. 523. The ingenious annotator would not have aſſerted ſo poſitively that the ſurname of Hrolf, king of Denmark, namely Krak, [Page 173] ſignifies a boy, had he read that rare book Hiſtoria Hrolfi Krakii, per Thormodum Torfaeum, Hafniae, 1715. 12mo. where, p. 147. Torfaeus, learned as he was in the northern languages, leaves us in uncertainty about its meaning, and tells us that Saxo interprets it a trunk of a tree; Magnus Olafius, in his verſion of the Edda, a dagger; and Stephanius, a crow.

P. 529. I cannot away with is a phraſe of diſlike uſed in the common proſe tranſlation of the pſalms, and other places of the bible oftener than once.

P. 535. The reading of the old folio and quarto is right, ‘he was ſo forlorn that his dimenſions to any thick ſight were invincible: ’ and that of the commentators wrong, as uſual. Why may not a minute object be ſaid, without any great figure, to be invincible to the ſight? My ſight cannot overcome it, for perceive it, command it, might even be a vulgariſm, it is ſo eaſy a mode of expreſſion:—nay, I believe it actually is.

P. 570. Port is the common phraſe in Scotland, if I may truſt my information, for gate, to this day, being immediately from the [Page 174] French. The Weſt port, Briſto port, &c. are the preſent names of the gates of Edinburgh.

P. 581. 'I will not excuſe you.' It is the firſt time I have heard that variation of phraſe was a proof of ſterility of brain, but quite the reverſe, as every body knows. If any writer could blot paper with ſuch abſolute abſurdity, why preſerve it? The humour, as Shakſpere meant it, lies in Shallow's being drunk and talkative, and yet, with all his prate, being only able to expreſs the ſame idea for want of others. The fact is, that not one of Warburton's notes was worthy of preſervation, for they do not even raiſe laughter or pity, they are ſo utterly below the gripe of common ſenſe:&and diſguſt and contempt are by no means agreeable emotions.

THE note upon William Cook in this page is in the true antiquarian ſtyle, and as ſuch I leave it. Coke, I have no doubt, was a proper name as well as Canning.

P. 605. Doll could not ſpeak but in the language of the foreſt! Raſcal does not ſignify raſcal, but lean deer! See what it is to be on the watch to ſhow a little muſty reading, and unknown knowledge.

[Page 175] THE word Caſtillian, uſed ſomewhere in one of the parts of Henry IV. or in The Merry Wives of Windſor, I forget which, appears to me to be derived from caſtille, which St. Palaye tells us is ſtill familiar French for a quarrel. Hence caſtillian, quarreler.

Vol. VI. KING HENRY V. p. 3. ‘O for a muſe of fire.’ Shakſpere knew nothing of the alluſions pointed out by his commentators. What abſurdity to imagine that Shakſpere, whoſe learning they utterly deny, ſhould be ſkilled in all the ſyſtems of philoſophy! What ſtill greater abſurdity to ſuppoſe, that Shakſpere had recourſe to the depths of philoſophy for a thought of the moſt trivial ſtamp! A muſe of fire is a fiery, ardent vein of poetry; a metaphor, which, had it occurred in ſome newspaper poetry, would have paſſed without notice by thoſe who pretend to admire it, and find out philoſophy, and God knows what, in it.

P. 4. The many times that Shakſpere uſes O for a circle, have not occurred to me.

[Page 176] P. 32. The remark that Shakſpere derived his image of Expectation from Edward III. in the horſe armory in the Tower (which by the bye, I ſuppoſe, did not exiſt in Shakſpere's time) is truly childiſh; and worthy of a country booby on his firſt viſit to the lions.

P. 68. 'Confounded baſe' is a violent metaphor; the ſame with terrified baſe: baſe that is in fear leſt the overhanging rock ſhould fall on it. Who ever heard that confounded ſignifies worn or waſted? The ſand by the ſhore, ‘Swill'd with the wild and waſteful ocean,’ ſeems to me to be by Shakſpere, in this place, called the baſe of a rock by the ſea ſide; as that on which it ſtands.

P. 371. HENRY VI. 2d Part. Anecdotes with regard to the mandrake may be found in Brown's Vulgar Errors.

P. 384. ‘Savage iſlanders (ſtabbed) Pompey the Great.’ It is very ſurprizing that the learned commentators ſhould here challenge Shakſpere for that ignorance which only darkened their own minds. Was not Pompey [Page 177] ſtabbed in Egypt, at that mouth of the Nile on which Alexandria ſtands? Hath not the Nile ſeven mouths, or outlets, by which it iſſues into the ocean? Were not the inhabitants of the interſtices of land, between theſe outlets, with the utmoſt propriety called iſlanders by Shakſpere, while their reſpective territories are called iſlands by different writers of antiquity, who likewiſe, I believe, give us their ſeveral names? At any rate, the whole ſpace between the extreme mouths of the Nile, is known to every ſchoolboy, by the name of the Iſland of Delta. But even, independent of this interpretation, might not Shakſpere, in the exuberance of his fancy, have here meant to expreſs that the Egyptians, who murdered Pompey, muſt have been natives of Meroe, or of the remote iſlands in the Nile, toward the cataracts, who are repreſented by Heliodorus in his admirable romance, if I miſtake not, to have been as barbarous as the Egyptians of the lower countries were humanized?—Shakſpere, I muſt ſay, appears to me infinitely ſuperior to any commentator he has yet had, even in claſſical ſcience.

[Page 178] Vol. VII. p. 8. l. 3. for 'this it is,' read 'thus it is.' P. 11. l. 14. for 'poſt-horſe,' read 'poſt-haſte.' P. 33. A bottle ſpider is evidently a ſpider kept in a bottle long faſting; and, of conſequence, the more ſpiteful and venomous.

MY remarks on the remaining volumes, you ſhall have on a future occaſion. I ſhall conclude my preſent Letter with an apology for quoting a few black-letter books in theſe brief notes. They are ſuch as have occurred to me as worth reading, from their curioſity or ſtyle; for I do not think any one can form a proper knowlege of his native language, without being a little verſant in all its ſtages. As to reading maſſes of antique nonſenſe, on purpoſe to illuſtrate any writer, gratitude is certainly due by the public to him who can ſacrifice his very underſtanding in its ſervice.

[Page 179]

YOU remember well that the Abbé du Bos, one of the moſt ingenious critics France has produced, if that be any praiſe, has, in his Reflections on Poetry and Painting, employed many chapters to prove, that climate has a moſt certain and immediate influence upon the human mind. His arguments I muſt beg leave briefly to recapitulate, as I mean to ſet them in oppoſition to thoſe of a more eminent writer of our own; and ſhall then offer you my own thoughts on this very curious ſubject, ſince you require them.

THE Abbé, in ſupport of his opinion, firſt produces a beautiful quotation from Fontenelle. 'Different ideas,' ſays that amiable writer, ‘are as plants, and flowers, which do not grow equally in all climates. Perhaps our territory of France is as improper for the Egyptian modes of reaſoning, as for their palm-trees; and, without going ſo far, perhaps the orange-trees, [Page 180] which do not flouriſh here ſo eaſily as in Italy, denote that there is in Italy a certain turn of mind, which we have not in France. It is however certain, that by the reciprocal connection and dependence, that exiſts among all the parts of the material world, the difference of climate, perceivable in its effects upon plants, ought alſo to extend its influence to the powers of the human brain.’ This argument, fantaſtic as it may appear, has more veriſimilitude than may at firſt ſight be attributed to it. Certain it is, that the further natural philoſophy proceeds, the more connection is diſcovered between plants and animals: and the moſt eminent botaniſts have confeſſed, that the ſur [...] plan of attaining to perfection in that ſcience is, to allot to plants as much of the properties of animals as poſſible; ſuch as ſleep, difference of ſexes, and the preference of one nouriſhment or ſoil to another.

TO proceed with the moſt remarkable of the Abbé's arguments. He attempts to ſhew, that ſome countries have naturally given birth to arts without receiving them of others; ſuch as Egypt, for inſtance; and he might have added [Page 181] China; whereas, in others, ſome arts would never take root, tho planted by ſovereign power, and nurtured by golden ſhowers of liberality. He inſtances painting in England; which, had he received a prophetical glimpſe of our days, he would have omitted.

MANY of his other arguments are thoſe of a man who wiſhes to go ingeniouſly wrong: and I muſt here beg leave to make one general remark mark on his work, naturally ariſing from his arguments and quotations on this ſubject; which is, that the Abbé thro-out diſplays woeful ignorance of the Greek tongue and Greek writers; ſcarce one of which he even quotes, tho they bear the ſame proportional value to the Latin as gold doth to ſilver. Hence his admiration of Virgil, and his ſeeming to forget that there is ſuch a writer as Homer in the world: a defect utterly contemptible, and unpardonable, in a writer who pretends to inſtruct his readers in critical knowlege, and a due eſtimate of works of literature. To return:

[Page 182] HE proceeds to ſhew the power of climate upon genius, from the characters of nations: and, in the ſucceeding ſection, offers his anſwer to ſuch objections as may be drawn from the characters of the Romans and the Dutch; ſo entirely oppoſite in ancient and modern times. His arguments are derived from the changes which nature hath made on theſe countries. In Rome, by the infection of the ancient cloacae; and, in Latium, from the want of cultivation, and the marſhes not being kept drained, as in ancient times; or from the mines (he means ſtrata) of alum, ſulphur, and arſenic, which nature hath been forming by degrees; and which exhale malignant vapours of power to affect both mind and body. 'We ſee frequently,' ſays he, ‘in La Compagna de Roma, a phaenomenen, which forces us to think that the attraction of the air is owing to theſe mines’ (ſtrata) ‘formed near the ſurface of the ground. During the heats, exhalations ariſe, which kindle of themſelves, and form long columns of flame. If theſe,’ he adds, ‘had appeared in Livy's days, his hiſtory would have been full of the ſacrifices offered for the expiation of ſuch prodigies.’ The changes which nature [Page 183] hath effected in Holland, lie in the deſtruction of her ancient foreſts, now in many places diſcoverable fifteen feet below the ſurface of the earth; and the conſequent elevation of the territory.

IN the next ſection he ſhews, by many ingenious inſtances, that the difference of climates is, in many countries, owing to the difference of the emanations of their reſpective ſoils; tho ſuch countries are equally diſtant from the equinoctial line. Poland, for inſtance, varies from England; owing to the ground of the former being replete with ſalt; that of the latter with lead, tin, coals, and other minerals. The Abbé concludes his remarks on this ſubject by arguments, in another ſection, to ſhew that the difference of talents in the ſame people, in different ages, is to be aſcribed to ſome variation of their climate. So much for Du Bos.

THE remarks of Monteſquieu, on the influence of climate on mankind, I need not rehearſe, as they principally tend to ſhew the influence of climate upon manners: an object quite diſtinct from our preſent, which is the influence of climate upon the powers of the mind.

[Page 184] TO make the ſcale even with the Abbé Du Bos, I ſhall only recite a few verſes of Mr. Gray, to be found in the fragment publiſhed of his admirable poem On the Alhance of Education and Government neceſſary to produce great and uſeful men; his own words, and which, by the way, imply, that he conſidered climate as deſerving no notice, even in the production of great men, or men of genius.

Can opener ſkies, and ſuns of fiercer flame,
O'erpower the fire that animates our frame;
As lamps, that ſhed at eve a chearful ray,
Fade and expire beneath the eye of day?
Need we the influence of the northern ſtar,
To ſtring our nerves, and ſteel our hearts to war?
And where the face of nature laughs around,
Muſt ſickening virtue fly the tainted ground?
Unmanly thought! What ſeaſons can control,
What fancied zone can circumſcribe the ſoul?
Who, conſcious of the ſource from whence ſhe ſprings,
By reaſon's light, on reſolution's wings,
Spite of her frail companion, dauntleſs goes
O'er Libya's deſerts, and thro Zembla's ſnows?
She bids each ſlumbering energy awake;
Another touch, another temper, take.
Suſpends th' inferior laws that rule our clay;
The ſtubborn elements confeſs her ſway.
Their little wants, their low deſires, confine;
And raise the mortal to a height divine.
[Page 185] I believe, however, my dear friend, you will agree with me, that the truth, as uſual, lies in the mid of theſe two extremes. That climate hath abſolute power over genius, I will no more pronounce with Du Bos, than with Mr. Gray, that it hath none. In the utmoſt extremes of climate, in Greenland for inſtance, or in Zaara, ſome kinds of genius, I doubt not, may be found in perfection, ſo far as adapted to the climate, ſuch as the warlike, or the legiſlative; while others, ſuch as the ſpeculative, the philoſophical, are totally heterogeneous to the ſoil. When I ſpeak of legiſlative genius, as diſtinct from philoſophical, I mean genius capable of forming laws for a community of no implex adminiſtration: a Lycurgus, for inſtance, they may have; but not a Bacon. As to other climes, which are not in ſuch extremes, we are led to think that the defect of genius in ſome countries, and the opulence of it in others, is owing more to education and government producing manners incompatible with the exertions of genius, or nutrition of ſuch exertions; than to a trifling variation of the ſkyey influence, as Shakſpere phraſes it. Certain it is, that large countries in Aſia, of equal or ſuperior temperature [Page 186] of climate to any in Europe, have in no time produced men of equal genius. Europe hath indeed, for theſe three thouſand years, been the quarter of the world to which true and legitimate genius ſeems confined. Even in poetry, which is the leaſt ſubject to climate of any exertion of genius, the Aſiatics have, in all ages, been woefully inferior to the Europeans. In all ages, the poetry of the Aſiatics has been ſtrained to bombaſt, and glittering with all the beauties of abſurdity, from the moſt ancient epoch down to our own times. As ſeveral critics have of late ſhewn a very different ſentiment; with regard to holy writ in particular, which they, in their fondneſs of enthuſiaſm, would fain find as eminent in compoſition as in ſanctity, I muſt beg leave to enforce my laſt aſſertion a little; and ſhall eaſily ſhew, that when they attempt to debauch our taſte, by commenting on the beautiful and grand paſſages of ſcripture, they are forced to relinquiſh every rule of ſound ſenſe. To inſtance in a few of the moſt noted paſſages.

'LET there be light and there was light,' hath been ſung upon, uſque ad faſtidium, owing [Page 187] to a forged addition to Longinus, not to be found in any authentic MS. as Le Clerc hath ſhewn; who likewiſe informs us, that this paſſage is a common barbariſm. A common barbariſm, I grant, may yet be ſublime: but did this paſſage ever ſtrike any reader as ſublime till he read its illuminators? Certainly not. Fine ſublime that requires a label, like This is a bear of the bad painter, to point it out! Sublime that does not ſtrike at once, and ſtrike all, aſſumes that title falſely. ‘Clothed his neck with thunder,’ I will venture to pronounce the moſt conſummate nonſenſe that ever was clothed with the thunder of bombaſt. Had it been found in ſome Grubſtreet writer of heroic panegyric, we ſhould never have done laughing at it. A horſe wearing a neckcloth in battle, a neckcloth of thunder! Proh Deum atqus hominum fidem! Dr. Blair, in his Lectures, who threatens in his preface to think for himſelf, and who, I grant you, hath employed much thought about what he could pillage from his predeceſſors for his own uſe, very gravely tells us, Lect. XLI. that ‘Iſaiah deſcribes, with great majeſty, the earth reeling to and fro like a drunkard, and removed like a cottage. ’ I ſee [Page 188] you laugh: yet one or two inſtances more. The ſame writer, who thinks for himſelf, tells us, that the compariſon, 2 Sam. XXIII. 3. ‘He that ruleth over men muſt be juſt, ruling in the fear of God; and he ſhall be as the light of the morning, when the ſun riſeth; even a morning without clouds; as the tender graſs ſpringing out of the earth by clear ſhining after rain,’ is one of the moſt regular and formal in the ſacred books. If ſo, I wiſh him joy with all my heart. For my part, I likewiſe think for myſelf; and I ſee two ſimiles in this paſſage both totally unlike, informal and irregular. But I am afraid of being tedious on a ſubject ſo clear: and ſhall return in obſerving, that, for abſurd and filthy imagery, witneſs ſome parts of Ezekiel, the beſt of the ſacred writers, the ſcripture yields to no compoſition in any language; but of ſublime or beautiful ſtyle, I can from that work produce no proofs. Writers who hold it up in that ludicrous view do as great harm to religion as to good taſte: it reſembles the dreſſing of a pious and worthy clergyman in the garments of a hero, or of a lovely woman; and then telling us he hath the ſublimity the one, and the beauty of the [Page 189] other: whereas it only puts him in an aukward light; and brings deriſion and contempt upon his holy character.

THE eaſtern writings are, to this day, remarkably deficient in that quality which we call good ſenſe: and which muſt reign, in an eminent degree, over works even of the warmeſt fancy, if they are meant to pleaſe the true judge. The nightingale's love for the roſe, and all the other trite and abſurd imagery of their beſt poetry, appear mere childiſhneſs to the ſuperiority of European wiſdom. The vales of Aſia, it is true, teem with flowers, but they are ſickly, and of no duration: among the odorous foreſts, that ſpread fragrance over the eaſtern countries, the ſtrong oak of ſenſe will not flouriſh.

CLIMATE, I conclude upon the whole, hath ſome power over genius; but not ſo much as is aſcribed to it by ſome writers, nor ſo little as is imputed by others. To attempt to mark the boundaries of its dominion, would be one of thoſe airy ſpeculations that ſerve to diſplay the writer's ingenuity at the expence of his wiſdom.

[Page 190]

AMONG the innumerable fooliſh books of memoirs, which the French little heroes of their own tales have produced, I believe no mean rank in abſurdity is due to thoſe of Cardinal De Retz. Lord Cheſterfield, that profound genius, hath recommended them to public notice in Letters, which, it muſt be confeſſed were not meant for the public eye, but which ſtand in the inverſe ratio of the work De rebus expetendis et fugiendis; good judges always taking his recommendation as ſufficient diſpraiſe. De Retz and Bouhours are his favourites: the firſt, an eccleſiaſtic, who debauched women; and the other, an eccleſiaſtic, who debauches taſte. Bouhours was, in fact, fifty years ago, known to be a true French critic, who prates much by rote, like a parrot, of what he could not underſtand. The fatuity of De Retz is, it muſt be owned, hid with a better maſque. That maſque is a falſe appearance of depth: I ſay, a falſe appearance; for, to to an eye of any penetration, the ſapience of De Retz is fragile and tranſparent as glaſs.

[Page 191] HIS memoirs are addreſſed to a lady; political memoirs to a lady! Then he tells how many duels he fought, and how immenſely gallant he was. O the pretty ſtateſman! No lady could ſee him without loving him, becauſe he had fine teeth; as he tells us was obſerved of him at court! He differs with Mazarine about nothing; and is feared before it was known that ſuch a perſon exiſted!

TO be ſerious. The talents of De Retz are thought amazing, becauſe he had the mob of Paris at command; and his political knowledge thought ſuperlative, becauſe he tells us, with all the pomp of maxim, that no mob can bear, ſe deſheurer, to loſe a meal; for this laſt is the only political axiom of his that I have ſeen taken notice of. To have a mob at command is no proof of talents, as a late occaſion muſt convince us: that occaſion muſt likewiſe ſhew the futility of the axiom above recited.

IF ever there was a ſuperficial egotiſt, who had knavery juſt enough to ſave him from being a fool; who tells ſuch lyes from mere vanity, as carry confutation in themſelves, not [Page 192] to ſpeak of the reprobative teſtimony of cotemporaries; who is always the hero of a tale of a cock and a bull; it is De Retz. If ever there was a writer who acquired a falſe reputation of depth from mere muddineſs of affectation; whoſe fooliſh gravity paſſes for wiſdom; who is in every point a mere French ſcribler of memoirs; it is De Retz.

IN the Menagiana, we are informed, that De Retz uſed to tell a ſtory of his having ſeen a man catch hold of the vane of a windmill, go round on it, and alight on the ſpot of ground from which he had ſet out. This wiſe tale, which I ſuppoſe is another inſtance of his political talents, always ſtruck me as a moſt juſt emblem of the Cardinal himſelf. He caught hold of a vane of the populary windmill; took a round; and was juſt where he was; ſaving that the height and rotation had ſuch an effect upon his brain as he never got the better of, but ever after ſpoke and wrote like a viſionary oracle.

[Page 193]

FARCE is no ſuch modern invention as you imagine. On the contrary, it is, I have no doubt, the moſt ancient of theatrical exhibitions. Nor is pantomime much more modern. As I know you pique yourſelf more upon uſing your own ſenſe than that of others; upon elegant knowlege, than upon erudition; I hope ſome little diſquiſition upon this point will prove an agreeable amuſement to you.

CASAUBON, in his very learned treatiſe on the Satyrical Poetry of the Greeks and that of the Romans, has well eſtabliſhed a very remote diſtinction between the ſatires of the two nations. Thoſe of the firſt were little pieces or farces, repreſented on the ſtage. Thoſe of the latter were a ſpecies of poetry quite diſtant from ſuch repreſentation; being merely moral poems, mingled with invective againſt vice and vicious characters. One inſtance only of the former is preſerved in the Cyclops of Euripides: examples of the laſt may be ſeen in the writings of Horace, of Juvenal, of Perſius.

[Page 194] TO proceed with the former, which is the object of our preſent enquiry, the ΣΑΤΥΡΙΚΑ, or Farces, of the Greeks, were the invention of their feſtival days inſtituted in honour of the gods: for that wiſe and gay people rightly imagined, that the joy of man is the ſupreme praiſe of the Deity. Tzetzes tells us theſe entertainments were the invention of rude ruſtics; by which Caſaubon underſtands that their origin is to be aſcribed to the moſt ancient age; before towns were built, or civil ſociety eſtabliſhed. That the ΣΑΤΥΡΙΚΑ, is the moſt ancient ſpecies of dramatic writing, we have the authority of Ariſtotle himſelf, who tells us that the choruſes of ancient tragedy are borrowed from them: [...]. A circumſtance not attended to by any of our critical writers, who univerſally look on the choruſes as the original parts of tragedy, being at firſt ſongs in honour of the deities, to which dialogue was added by degrees. How long will our Engliſh critics dully follow the French; and tread always in the paths of each other, for fear of being loſt in a ſearch after the original fountains of knowlege? Theſe ſatires of the Greeks were ſo [Page 195] called from their actors, who perſonified the Satyrs, the imaginary attendants of Bacchus, at whoſe feſtivals they were originally performed; whereas the Latin Satyrae are derived from ſatur, full, as replete with variety of matter. For we muſt obſerve that the ancient Roman Satyrae were not continued invectives againſt vice, but ſometimes treated the advantages of virtue, and the like, in an ethic and ſevere tone. Such is Caſaubon's etymology: but why may not the Roman ſatyrae, or ſaturae as more anciently written, be derived from Saturn, the deity at whoſe feſtivals the faſcenine verſes, the rude ſketches of the Roman ſatire, were chiefly recited?

TO return to the Greek farces. Their origin and etymology have been ſhewn: now for their ſubject. In this they differed totally from our farces, that they admitted of tragic ſubjects; nay the moſt ancient of them knew no other. Yet theſe ſubjects were not completely tragic; but allowed of a mixture of comic ſcenes, even in thoſe that bore the hue of tragedy. They were in fact ſhort tragicomedies. Mr. Addiſon, with his uſual French ſuperficiality [Page 196] of ſcience, tells us, that tragicomedy is the monſtrous product of the Engliſh ſtage. It was known to his admired ancients, both Greeks and Romans; as he might have known, had he read Athenaeus, with regard to the former; or the prologue to the Amphitryon of Plautus, for we ſhall not expect that he would read the piece itſelf, with regard to the latter. By both nations it was applauded and admired. And Shakſpere alone might convince us, that it is the moſt natural, and conſequently the moſt proper way, of conſtructing a drama, tho not the moſt ſafe or artificial; as requiring far greater powers in the writer than when one turn of ſentiment is begun and continued from the beginning to the end of a piece.

UNHAPPILY the only ſpecimen we have of the Greek farce is in the tragic ſtyle; but from it we may judge of the others; for even in this the ſhocking ſtory of Odyſſes, or Ulyſſes, and the Cyclops, is apparently treated in ſuch a ludicrous way as to produce the complete effect of Tom Thumb, Chrononhotonthologos, or the like mock tragedies. If ſuch were the tragic farces, the comic ones muſt have ſuperabounded [Page 197] with broad humour and laughter. The humour I however judge from the perſons, a mob of drunken ſatyrs, muſt have been very impure: and ſuſpect that the decency of the Cyclops of Euripides is the great reaſon of its being preſerved in preference to ſo many others.

CASAUBON hath on this ſubject crouded his treaſures, drawn from the very depths of Greek and Roman erudition, with great profuſion. The learning he diſplays on this very curious ſubject amazes even the learned. I ſhall not, however, attempt to ſtring any more of his pearls; but content myſelf with obſerving, that in his long enumeration of eminent Greek writers of farce, are the names of Theſpis, Aeſchylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Plato, Lycophron, Bion.

AT what time the moderns thought of annexing farces to larger dramatic pieces, in order to diverſify the entertainment, I will not take upon me to determine; but ſuppoſe the practice was not eſtabliſhed in England till the Reſtoration. Among other cuſtoms borrowed [Page 198] from France, I take this to have been one. The word farce is originally Latin, I ſuppoſe, from farcire, to fill, to ſtuff; alluding to its filling the entertainment, and rendering it complete. Like other Latin words, it has paſſed to us thro the channel of France; but is not, in my opinion, from the French farcer, to play the droll: I rather think that verb is from the ſubſtantive, as we may ſay to make a farce of a thing.

THE ancient farces, as hath been already obſerved on another occaſion, were very commonly performed between the acts of their tragedies or comedies; as ballets are now danced between the acts of operas. By the bye, one cannot help laughing at Mr. Addiſon's better attack upon the opera, and his profeſſed admiration of the ancient dramas. The opera is a complete copy of the ancient drama, in all its parts of recitation and ſong, accompanied with muſic and dance: a formal chorus, it is true, is not now introduced; but the actors themſelves form the ſinging chorus, in a way much more natural and proper; and for the [...] another province of the ancient chorus [Page 199] unknown to its modern wellwiſhers, a real and diſtinct chorus of ballet dancers is preſerved in all its luſtre.

THE modern farces are with more propriety brought forward at the cloſe of more important dramas; and are particularly neceſſary after tragedy, to relieve the mind, and prevent our ſorrows, ariſing from fiction, to enter into real life, where too many real ſorrows await us.

IT is almoſt unneceſſary to add, that in many of our farces are to be found ſome of the ſtrongeſt comic ſituations, and the moſt genuine wit and humour that grace our ſtage. In our farce we allow more latitude of plot, broader humour, and higher colour of character, than in comic dramas of a greater denomination. Comedy, tho ſhe ought always to be chearful, is generally content merely to ſimper and ſmile; whereas Farce ought always to laugh aloud. To the eminent names of Greek writers of farce, mentioned above, the Engliſh may add thoſe of Fielding, Garrick, Smollet, Colman.

[Page 200] HAVING ſpoken ſo much of farce, let us now conſider pantomime. The prodigious eſtimation in which this art and its profeſſors were held by the ancients, appears from innumerable teſtimonies of their authors. To quote two or three of them were ridiculous; for one cannot open an ancient who takes any notice of, or derives any metaphor from the theatre, without obſerving the important light in which they conſidered pantomime. Nor ſhall we wonder at this, when we remark the high perfection to which the ancients had carried this art. By the geſtures merely of the pantomimic actors were the ancient audiences infinitely more affected either with tragic or comic ſenſations, than with all the dramatic pomp of muſical declamation and ſympathetic force of recitative. If you wiſh more information on this head, peruſe Lucian's treatiſe "On Pantomime."

THE further ſouth we go, the more do people uſe geſture, and the more are they affected by it. A Frenchman uſes infinitely more geſticulation than an Engliſhman; and an Italian ſtill more than a Frenchman. Hence [Page 201] Italy has always been the proper climate of pantomime. In ancient and in modern days, the ſannio, or harlequin, with all his brethren of grimace, have choſen Italy for their chief theatre of action. Italy has, both in ancient and modern times, been the inventreſs of ludicrous pantomime; and I ſuſpect alſo of ſerious, which now only exiſts in the grand ballets of the opera, lately brought almoſt to ancient perfection and pathos by Noverre. Magnificence in particular, the grand character of the ancient ſtage, is, in theſe ballets, or modern ſerious pantomimes, carried to a greater height than in any other theatrical exhibition of theſe times.

BUT it is the pantomime of the Engliſh ſtage that now draws our attention. The contempt expreſſed for this expenſive amuſement, by ſome men of ſevereſt wiſdom, is itſelf contemptible. No amuſement deſerves ſcorn that is an innocent relaxation from anxious thoughts and the cares of life. No dramatic exhibition excites leſs thought, or more ocular attention, than pantomime; none is of conſequence more calculated for the man of ſtudy, or of care.

[Page 202] IT may however be regretted, that the ſums expended in Grecian days, to place their grand tragic ſcenes in an exuberance of decoration, are now waſted on this inferior performance. The magnificence of unmeaning proceſſions, &c. in preſent pantomimes is amazing. The managers of the winter theatres commonly produce a pantomime in the courſe of every ſeaſon; and rival each other in this annual extravagance with the profuſion of two rich peers contending for the return of members of parliament. Theſe pantomimes are commonly brought forward during the Chriſtmas holidays, when all the world is idle; and the conſtant ſucceſſion of them ſhews that the managers do not form their neſt-eggs of gold, to uſe a metaphor Hudibraſtic, without making their clients lay in proportion.

INDEED pantomime is now the beſt entertainment we find in our theatres. It is quite aſtoniſhing to remark how much our ſtage hath declined within this half dozen years, ſince the retreat of Garrick. It is overwhelmed with floods of Iriſh nonſenſe, and ſtuff more ſtupid than ſtupidity, where not one glimmer of ſenſe [Page 203] or wit appears. Had thoſe Iriſhmen, female ſcriblers, &c. offered their traſh to a Bartholomew-fair audience a few years ago, they would have been hiſſed to ſcorn. Our poor audiences ſit with Dutch phlegm, and take what God ſends. Engliſh good nature, or bon hommie, if you pleaſe, puts us upon a level with the moſt ſtupid and barbarous of nations. What the judgement of our audiences condemns, their good nature with a vengeance! comes in and reprieves at the very gallows. However it is ſome conſolation to know that our ſtage cannot poſſibly be worſe than it is, ſo it muſt mend of courſe.

CHANGE of ſcene was totally unknown to the ancients: in this mute diſplay they muſt therefore have yielded to the wonderful mechaniſm of modern times. The mechanic wit of modern pantomime is tranſcendant; a lawyer is changed into a lady of Billingſgate, and a judge into an owl, in a moment. With regard to the dignity of amuſement, I ſuppoſe our comic pantomime yields not to that of the ancients; for Plutarch tells us, in his Sympoſiacs, that dogs regularly bred to the ſtage performed [Page 204] parts in the ancient pantomime; a perfection to which we have not yet arrived.

THE modern harlequin is a perfect copy of the ancient ſannio, or mimus. The mimus had his face ſmeared with ſoot, fuligine faciem obductus, and wore a habit patched of many colours; as we learn from Apuleius in his Apology, Quid enim ſi choragium thimelicum poſſiderem? Num ex eo argumentavere etiam uti me conſueviſſe Tragaedi ſyrmate, Hiſtrionis crocota, Mimi centunculo? The centunculus is a diminutive of cento uſed by Juvenal for a garment made of patches; whence it is applied metaphorically to a poem compoſed of ſhreds of others; as the noted cento of Auſonius.

THE other pantomimic perſons of our theatre are Columbine, Pantaloon, and the Clown. The Italians have likewiſe The Doctor, Beltrame of Milan, Scapin, The Italian Captain, The Spaniſh Captain, Scaramouche, Giangurgulo the Calabrian, Mezzetin, Tartaglia, Punch, Narciſin de Malabergo. A grand pantomime, including all the Italian perſonages in their proper characters, is yet wanting to the Engliſh ſtage.

[Page 205]

I DO not wonder that the praiſes which Dr. Blackwall hath beſtowed on Gravina's work, DELLA RAGION POETICA, together with the uncommon title of the work itſelf, have excited your curioſity. The book is rather rare, tho of no great price; and till I can procure you a copy, accept a ſhort account of it.

IT is divided into two books, and addreſſed A Madama Colbert Principeſſa di Carpegna; an impropriety ſimilar to that of De Retz, in addreſſing a work to a perſon who could never be ſuppoſed to underſtand it. Was the patroneſs the daughter or niece of the great Colbert? He mentions her anceſtors as being of Scotland, and paſſing into France. By the bye, the Scotiſh name is Cuthbert; and Mr. Cuthbert of Caſtlehill, an old Scotiſh title, aſſumes, as I am informed by different countrymen of his, the name of L'Abbé Colbert, when at Paris, where he hath fixed his reſidence.

[Page 206] IN this addreſs there is nothing remarkable, ſave a very juſt remark, which, tho made likewiſe by Pope, is not, and never will be, ſufficiently attended to; namely, ‘that there is equal difficulty in judging perfectly well of poetry, as in compoſing with perfection: and that it is far eaſier to be a middling author than a juſt critic.’ He proceeds, in the addreſs, to ſhew the deſign upon which his work is written; and what he underſtands by the title of it, DELLA RAGION POETICA, Of the Reaſons or firſt Cauſes of Poetry; and obſerves, that as every noble edifice is built according to the rules of architecture, and theſe rules have geometry for their ragion, or firſt cauſe; ſo the knowlege of poetry is the ragion or foundation of the rules of poetry. He then proceeds to ſhew the true knowlege of poetry to conſiſt in an eternal idea of fitneſs of things; and, in the fifteen or ſixteen ſucceeding ſections, utterly loſes himſelf in the Platonic ſyſtem; on which a man of great mind, who gives himſelf up to erudition, is ſo apt to be wrecked. Platoniſm was indeed the madneſs of Gravina, as appears from all his works: and an attachment to an enthuſiaſtic ſyſtem is the grand reaſon [Page 207] why the works of the maſter of Metaſtaſio have been ſo little read.

FROM this account of the leading idea of his work, you will at firſt glance perceive that the fabric reſts upon ſand. Nothing indeed can well be more futile, nor of falſer criticiſm, than to infer an analogy between geometry, the coldeſt operation of the judgement, and poetry, the warmeſt exertion of the imagination. The fact is, that the rules of poetry have no ragion, as he quaintly and abſtractedly calls it, but the example of former poets. I beg pardon for the expreſſion, rules of poetry. Poetry knows no rules. The code of laws which Genius preſcribes to his ſubjects, will ever reſt in their own boſoms. Rules of criticiſm was the expreſſion I meaned to uſe; and theſe have no ragion, or firſt foundation, at all. They are drawn from Homer, Sophocles, and Pindar: what theſe maſters do, ſay the critics, is right, and every thing elſe is wrong. Poor judges! Ye ſlaves who judge of your maſters! Is not NATURE greater than Homer, Sophocles, or Pindar? Is not GENIUS the ſupreme arbiter and lord of Nature's whole domain; her ſuperior, [Page 208] her king, her god? Bring out your candle then, and teach the ſun how to exert his meridian power!

IN theſe firſt, fifteen ſections, there are, nevertheleſs, ſome remarks worth notice; ſuch as this, ‘we muſt ſtudy diligently to impreſs upon verſe an appearance of negligence; that the imagination may not revolt from its deluſion, thro the force of apparent artifice.’ That upon the native gravity of the Romans is curious; and he aſcribes to this the defect of Latin comedy. He obſerves, in another place, that Terence hath no comic force; and that Volcatius Sedigitus, an ancient critic, placed Terence only in the ſixth rank even of Roman comic writers; yet his works, and thoſe of Virgil, have reached us. Such is the power of ſtyle!

MANY of his obſervations upon Homer are fine; ſuch as, his being the greateſt poet, becauſe his works all bear the very ſtamp of nature; none of his characters being perfect; the virtuous being painted as capable of vice, and the vicious as guilty of virtue. Perfect characters [Page 209] form indeed a ſure mark of a middling writer; who cannot copy nature, but only a feeble idea of perfection in his own breaſt. They are always inſipid; witneſs Eneas, the moſt inſipid character ever drawn; for the vices of Eneas, his dereliction of Dido, &c. are not deſcribed as imperfections of character; but are indeed mere inconſiſtencies.

HIS idea of the theology, and philoſophic ſyſtem of Homer, I look upon as without foundation. Homer, I am certain, had no allegory whatever in view, when he wrote either of his immortal poems: his only intention was to entertain; and, perhaps, to make money, by furniſhing amuſement to others. Let us not look upon the laſt motive as ſordid: it was the motive of Shakſpere. I know of no book whatever that may not be turned into an allegory, with the help of a ſmattering analogy, which the meaneſt fancy is capable of forming. Alchymy has been found in the Hypneromachia of Poliphilo in all its ſecrets; and I doubt not might likewiſe be diſcovered by an adept in the Iliad, or in the Odyſſey. They who find any thing in theſe poems more than the [Page 210] entertaining narration of an intereſting ſtory, are methodiſts in poetry; and have as great a title to the inward light, which always comes thro a crack in the ſkull, as the methodiſts in religion.

AFTER eſcaping theſe fifteen ſections of Platonic frenzy, we happily arrive at his characters of the moſt eminent poets of ancient Greece and Rome; who have all, according to the author's enthuſiaſtic theory, written up to his idea of making all poetry a myſtic veil of Platoniſm. He however doth not always harp upon the ſtring of his madneſs; and when he doth not, his characters of the ſeveral ancient poets are admirably juſt and fine.

HE concludes the firſt book with characters of the modern Latin poets of Italy, after ſewing them to his ſyſtem by a coarſe thread of diſcourſe; for he tells us, that there is now no occaſion for myſticiſm in poetry, it being the faſhion for truth to appear without any covering. As I hold modern Latin poetry in utter contempt, I need not tell you, that I agree with him in no one character of any of its authors.

[Page 211] IN the ſecond book he returns to his Platoniſm with freſh vigour in characterſing Dante, on whom he dwells thro many ſections. He afterwards proceeds to value the other Italian poets, moſtly with great juſtice and acuteneſs.

THIS is, I believe, an accurate analyſis of Gravina's celebrated performance, Della Ragion Poetica: a work, which, tho written by a man of fine taſte and ample talents, is yet only a monument of the pernicious effects of ſyſtem upon any ſcience. Lord Bacon hath obſerved that any faculty reduced to an art muſt of neceſſity become barren, becauſe art circumſcribes it: as for inſtance, no good poetry can be written by an author who pays the ſmalleſt attention to arts of poetry. Which arts of poetry are indeed, in my opinion, ſo many contradictions in terms; for poetry is a faculty, not an art: an exertion of the mind to be circumſcribed by rules, only when ſome wonderful inventor ſhall teach watches to think; there being fully as much abſurdity in the idea of giving mechaniſm to thought, as in that of giving thought to mechaniſm. The remark of [Page 212] Lord Bacon, above quoted, may juſtly be applied to ſyſtem: with attachment to which if a writer is tainted, he can never acquire wide and laſting fame; which is only to be attained by the productions of a ſoul free as the mountain winds, and large as the univerſe.

[Page 213]

OF the numerous writers on truth, I know none who hath yet obſerved that the truth perceivable to human reaſon may be reduced to two kinds, truth of fact and truth of nature.

BEFORE I proceed further, allow me to tell you an anecdote.

SIR WALTER RALEGH, when confined in the Tower, had prepared the ſecond volume of his immortal hiſtory for the preſs. He was ſtanding at the window of his apartment, ruminating on the office of an hiſtorian, and on the ſacred regard which he ought to pay to truth, when of a ſudden his attention was excited by an uproar in the court, into which his proſpect was directed. He ſaw one man ſtrike another, whom by his dreſs he judged an officer, and who drawing his ſword run the aſſailant thro the body; who did not however fall till he had knocked down the officer with [Page 214] his fiſt. The officer was inſtantly ſeized, while lying ſenſeleſs, and carried away by the ſervants of juſtice; while at the ſame time the body of the man he had murdered was borne off by ſome perſons, apparently his friends, who, with great difficulty, pierced thro the vaſt croud that was now gathered around.

NEXT day an acquaintance of Sir Walter called on him; a man, of whoſe ſevere probity and honour, Sir Walter was convinced from innumerable proofs, and rated his friendſhip accordingly. Ralegh, after their firſt compliments, told the ſtory of yeſterday's fray; which had impreſſed him deeply, as being a ſpectator of the whole affair. What was his ſurprize, when his friend told him that he was perfectly miſtaken in his whole ſtory! That his officer was no officer, but a ſervant of a foreign ambaſſador; that this apparent officer gave the firſt blow: that he did not draw his ſword, but the other drew it, and it was wreſted out of his hands, but not till after he had run its owner thro the body with it: that after this, a foreigner in the mob knocked the murderer down, in order that he ſhould not eſcape: that [Page 215] ſome foreigners had carried off the ſervant's body: and that orders had arrived from court for the murderer to be tried inſtantly, and no favour ſhewn, as the perſon murdered was one of the principal attendants of the Spaniſh ambaſſador. 'Sir,' ſays Ralegh, ‘allow me to ſay that, tho I may be miſtaken as to the officerſhip of the murderer, yet I know of a certainty, that all my other circumſtances are ſtrictly true; becauſe I was a ſpectator of the whole tranſaction, which paſſed on that very ſpot oppoſite, where you ſee a ſtone of the pavement a little raiſed above the reſt.’ 'Sir Walter,' ſays the friend, ‘upon that very ſtone did I ſtand during the whole affair, and received this little ſcratch in my cheek, in wreſting the ſword out of the fellow's hand: and as I ſhall anſwer to God, you are totally miſtaken.’ ‘You grow warm, my friend, let us talk of other matters,’ ſaid Sir Walter; and, after ſome other converſation, his friend departed.

RALEGH took up the manuſcript of the ſecond volume of his hiſtory, then juſt completed; 'How many falſehoods are here?' ſaid he. ‘If I cannot judge of the truth of an event [Page 216] that paſſes under my eyes, how ſhall I truly narrate thoſe which have paſſed thouſands of years before my birth; or even thoſe that have happened ſince my exiſtence? Truth, I ſacrifice to thee!’ The fire was already feeding on his invaluable work, the labour of years: and he calmly ſat till it was utterly conſumed, and the table ghoſt of the laſt leaf flitted up the chimney.

FROM this anecdote I illuſtrate an opinion, which I have always held, that there is no ſuch thing as truth of fact, or hiſtorical truth, known to man. Hiſtory is merely a species of romance, founded on events which really happened; but the bare events as ſtated by chronologiſts are alone true; their cauſes, circumſtances, and effects, as detailed by hiſtorians, depend entirely on the fancy of the relater. Or other truths none are poſitive to man, ſave thoſe ſubject to his ſenſes; and even theſe are fallac ous, tho the truths they affirm are poſitive, as to us: to ſuperior beings our truths are no doubt falſehoods.

[Page 217] FROM this obſervation, however, a certain ſpecies of truth, which conſiſts in the relation and connection of things, muſt be exempted; providing this may be called poſitive truth. I mean, truth of nature, or that univerſal truth to be found in poetry and works of fiction. This conſiſts in the propriety and conſiſtence of event, of character, of ſentiment, of language, to be found in ſuch works. Want of ſuch propriety and conſiſtence always ſtrikes even a common reader as falſe and abſurd. Were Achilles, inſtead of fighting Hector, to fall on his knees, and beg for his life, the incident would ſtrike every one as contrary to truth of character. I need not uſe any more inſtances to illuſtrate my meaning; tho I doubt you will think it rather an uncommon remark, that the whole truth known to man, and not ſubject to his ſenſes, muſt be found only in works of fiction. Truth was not made for man, nor man for truth. He is the mere creature of falſehood: on falſehood depend his being, his paſſions, his happineſs.

BY the truth of nature, you will perceive, I mean that repreſented and imitated by art. [Page 218] For when we ſay that an event or character drawn by a painter or poet is not true, is not in nature, we imply that art hath relinquiſhed nature: art and nature are therefore, in this inſtance, almoſt ſynonymous terms; for we refer the repreſentations of art to that idea of univerſal nature, which every mind acquires, in a greater or ſmaller degree, from being daily converſant in her works.

A CHARACTER may however be drawn out of the uſual progreſs of nature, and yet have truth; as the Caliban of Shakſpere. In this, fancy, comparing certain ideas of utter rudeneſs of human nature, blended with the beſtial and demonic: the two firſt drawn from real nature; the latter from a continuity of ſimilar notions of theſe ſupernatural beings, handed down from ages of ignorance to ages of refinement, compoſes, from uniting theſe ideas, a certain ſtandard of fitneſs and propriety of character, which is here applied inſtead of the grand ſtandard of nature. This ſingular character is true to itſelf, offends no idea of propriety, yet is not in nature.

[Page 219] OF truth of nature, taken in a large ſenſe as applicable to the grand works of nature, man can only judge in ſo far as thoſe concern him. It is the nature of the ſun to produce heat, but, were it in time to poſſeſs the oppoſite quality, we could not ſay that nature was falſe, but that her effects varied. Were we told that the rays of the ſun are eſſentially cold, but have the power to effect heat, we cannot prove the propoſition wrong; we only judge from our feelings that the ſun warms us: and the wiſdom that would go further is folly; for any prerogative of nature that manifeſts not its exiſtence to us, we may boldly ſay, hath no exiſtence. The Herſchelian planet certainly did not exiſt to us till it was diſcovered, tho it was ever an attendant of our ſyſtem. How fit we are to judge of the truth of the works of nature, may be inferred from the ſermon of the Cordelier, who deſired his audience to admire the ſuperlative wiſdom and goodneſs of God, who always makes the greateſt rivers to paſs, by the greateſt cities.

[Page 220]

YOUR wonder at my aſſertion, that the modern ſtage and drama are ſuperior to the ancient, I can only remove by ſupporting it with evidence. To begin with the theatre; that of the ancients conſiſted, like ours, of a ſemicircle, of which the chord for [...] the ſtage, behind which were convenience for the actors; and the ſemicircular part contained ſeats for the ſpectators. The ancient ſtage of the Greeks comprehended four diviſions: the [...], where the reciters of the play ſtood; the [...], where the actors of the play were ſtationed; the [...], where the chorus was placed to dance and ſing; and the [...], where, as with us, the muſicians held their reſidence. The ſcene was always the ſame for each kind of drama. The tragedy had a ſcene conſiſting of a view of a public place, as the court of a palace, or the like area, ſurrounded with buildings of magnificent architecture. [Page 221] The comic ſcene always conſiſted of a public place of domeſtic architecture; and was commonly divided into three parts, by two ſtreets opening up from it; ſo that the actors came down theſe ſtreets to the audience: by this mean ſome paſſages in ancient dramas are accounted for, in which perhaps an actor expreſſes an ardent and repeated wiſh to ſee a perſon then on the ſtage; that perſon is then in the other ſtreet, and cannot be ſeen by the actor, tho he is by the audience. The ſcene of the [...], or farce, was always rural; as the ſatyrs, its conſtant chorus, were the fancied inhabitants of the woods. The whole machinery of the ancient ſcene conſiſted in changing it, as either of the dramas were deſigned for repreſentation.

THE vaſt ſuperiority of the modern ſcene for real repreſentation, the grand object of the drama, is ſo evident, that, to inſiſt on it, were to affront your judgment.

NEXT to the ſcene was the [...], the proſcenium, or place before the ſcene, as the name imports. In this the actors or mimics of the [Page 222] play appeared. For you muſt know, that with the ancients, the acting of a play was quite a diſtinct province from the ſpeaking or recitation. One ſet of actors ſpoke, while another accompanied them with proper geſtures. As the laſt was thought the moſt important part of the drama, greater honour was paid to the mimics than to the reciters.

BELOW the [...] was the [...], where the reciters, above-mentioned, took their ſtation. In this [...] ſtood fellows with monſtrous maſks, contrived with ſuch large gaping mouths, as if they meant to eat all the ſpectators, man, woman, and child, and leave none for to-morrow, as Lucian wittily tells us. Theſe reciters, with the lungs of Therſites, rehearſed the piece in muſical cadence; while the muſic of the orcheſtra accompanied them, as it did the chorus when their turn came.

NEXT to this was the [...], or place of the chorus, whoſe province you well know: and next the audience, as with us, the [...], where, with the Romans, the magiſtrates and chief men of the city had a ſuperb ſeat appointed [Page 223] for them. The emperor's ſeat was in the midſt of the orcheſtra, and called podium.

THE theatre of the Romans differed from that of the Greeks in ſome reſpects. For example, the pulpitum of the former, and [...] of the latter, was ſometimes in the Latin theatre of the ſame elevation with the proſcenium: nay I queſtion if they were not ſometimes blended in one. The chorus was likewiſe, now and then, placed in the orcheſtra. The ſcene of the Romans was ſometimes of amazing grandeur; that of the theatre of Marius Scaurus being ornamented with 360 columns, and 3000 ſtatues.

BOTH in the Greek and Roman theatre the ſpectators ſat in uniform rows of ſtone ſeats, carried all round the ſemicircle. The multitude of their vomitoria, or doors, is however much to be envied; as, in caſe of accident from the number of candles, fireworks, &c. employed in our theatres, the ſmallneſs and fewneſs of the paſſages is ſhockingly cruel and abſurd.

[Page 224] IN the ancient theatre plays were always repreſented in broad day; and ſometimes four tragedies, one after another, all the work of one author when contending for the prize: while next day was ſet apart for as many of an antagoniſt. Theſe ſtrings of tragedies were called [...], and [...]. Over the theatre, which was open above, in caſe of rain, or intenſe heat of the ſun, a vaſt veil could be ſpread by means of eaſy machinery: this veil was ſometimes of the fineſt ſilk.

SOME contend that the Romans were accuſtomed to change their ſcenes, during the repreſentation of the ſame piece, from a miſconception of this paſſage of Servius, in his notes on the third Georgic: Scena quae fiebat aut verſilis erat, aut ductilis. Verſilis tunc erat, quum ſubito tota machinis quibuſdam convertebatur, et aliam picturae faciem oſtendebat. Ductilis tunc, quum tractis tabulariis hac atque illac ſpecies picturae nudabatur interior. But this only applies to the change of ſcene for each drama, as above expreſſed; and as may be proved from this clear and poſitive paſſage of Vitruvius, in the eighth chapter of his fifth book. Genera ſunt ſcenarum tria. Unum [Page 225] quod dicitur tragicum, alterum comicum, tertium ſatyricum. Horum autem ornatus ſunt inter ſe diſſimiles, diſparique ratione: quod tragicae deformantur (beware of tranſlating this deformed: it means in the claſſic Auguſtan Latin of Vitruvius formed of, formantur de, as a monk would have phraſed it) columnis, faſtigiis, et ſignis, reliquiſque regalibus rebus. Comicae autem aedificiorum privatorum et menianorum habent ſpeciem, perſpectuſque feneſtris diſpoſitos communium aedificiorum rationibus. Satyricae vero ornantur arboribus, ſpeluncis, montibus, reliquiſque agreſtibus rebus, in topiarii operis ſpeciem deformatis. From this you ſee that there were only three changes of ſcene in every ancient theatre; and theſe adapted ſolely to the different grand kinds of the drama.

NEED I deſcend to particulars, to evince the ſuperiority of the modern ſtage to the ancient, after this genuine deſcription of the latter, drawn from its cotemporaries? Muſt not the whole repreſentation of the ancients have heaped abſurdity upon abſurdity? The mute action of the mimics; guided by the voice of the reciters, conveyed thro tubes of braſs; and [Page 226] ſet off with a maſque; the one ſide of which expreſſed grief, and the other complacency; ſo that the actor muſt remember to turn his ſad ſide to the ſpectators at the proper minute. The unnatural declamation accompanied with muſic. The chorus dancing and ſinging at the intervals, &c, &c, &c. How ſuperior is the natural neatneſs of our dramatic exhibitions, which repreſent life itſelf, to the uncouth magnificence of the ancients! To dwell longer on this were needleſs, ſo I ſhall paſs to the conſideration of the drama itſelf. To begin with tragedy.

THE fable of ancient tragedy is, in compariſon with ours, amazingly barren and jejune. Milton's Sampſon is a true picture of moſt ancient tragedies; and we all know what a yawning figure this would make on our ſtage. In moſt of their pieces there is but one incident, and that contrived with little art; as in the Edipus Coloneus, where the perſonages exchange a number of ſpeeches, and then one of them dies. The only art of the author lies in ſummoning topics of verbal commiſeration. The Edipus Tyrannus is indeed an exception; [Page 227] but the horror of the events is too ſtrong, and diſguſts the mind, inſtead of attracting its ſympathy. This remark affects not however the art of the author; which muſt be allowed great, notwithſtanding that the tradition or narrative, upon which his piece ſtands, muſt have helped him in every particular. But, if art is the chief merit of tragedy, then is The Mourning Bride the firſt of modern tragedies; as indeed it is pronounced by a Scotiſh critic, who in poetry knew not the beſt from the worſt. Nothing ſpoils a tragedy more than an intricate plot; for no paſſion can be raiſed where the judgment always intervenes.

IN contraſt, the modern tragedies ſeldom have an implex fable; but abound with life, action, incident. They intereſt without perplexing; and never puſh the tragic paſſions to horror and diſguſt. The chorus likewiſe deſtroyed the whole moral effect of tragedy, by thinking for the ſpectators, who in that caſe never think for themſelves. Modern tragedies are far better calculated to mend the heart and manners than the ancient: domeſtic tragedies, the moſt moral and pathetic of all, bring utterly [Page 228] unknown to the ancients; who thought that we could not cry, except when her majeſty was a blubbering. The characters and language of our tragedies muſt, of conſequence, be more various and intereſting.

IF in tragedy we excel the ancients, ſtill more in comedy and farce. Of the Greek comedy of Ariſtophanes let thoſe ſpeak who have diſcovered that dung ceaſes to ſtink becauſe it is Athenian. Certainly a meaner or dirtier ſcribbler never diſgraced any country than that ancient buffoon: he is ſo totally without merit, that to take the trouble of expreſſing ſupreme contempt for him, is paying him too great honour. What has preſerved his pitiful works? Style almighty ſtyle! Of the comedies of Philemon and Menander, we have many fragments which ſhew the inſipid morality with which they were fraught. Our ſentimental comedy is a mere joke to them for ſoporification. The comedies of Terence are tranſlations from theirs; and we ſee how totally deſtitute they are of the vis comica; ſo much ſo as even to diſguſt the ancients themſelves; witneſs theſe verſes of the great Caeſar, preſerved by Suetonius: [Page 229]

Tu quoque, tu in ſummis, O dimidiate Menander,
Poneris; et merito, puri ſermonis amator;
Lenibus atque utinam ſcriptis adjuncta foret vis
Comica, ut aequato virtus polleret honore:
Cum Graecis neque in hac deſpectus parte jaceres:
Unum hoc maceror et doleo tibi deeſſe, Terenti.
Intricate plot, and artificial ligature of ſcenes, we find in Terence: but every thing elſe is wanting: character, ſituation, incident, wit, humour, laughter, gaiety: indeed, the whole of that by which comedy is comedy. His dramas, in ſhort, are dramas for mathematicians.

THE ſuperiority of our farce to the ancient need not be remarked, after the account I lately ſent you of the latter. The chorus; its conſiſting always of ſatyrs, &c. are manifeſt ſhackles which bound down the ancient farce in the dungeon of dulneſs.

THE duration of the ancient tragic drama I have already pointed out, as ſhorter, and preferable to ours: perhaps you will ſay, that the want of incident authoriſed the brevity of the Greek tragedy. But you will remember that I took my inſtance from the Edipus Tyrannus, a play that hath ſufficient incident for a modern [Page 230] drama. Since I wrote to you on the duration of the drama, I have found the following paſſage in Cicero, which leads me to think that the ancients conſidered the drama as reſtricted to three acts. It is in the firſt book of his Letters Ad Quintium Fratrem, and runs thus: Illud te ad entremum oro et bortor ut, tanquam poetae boni, et actores induſtrii ſolent, ſic tu in extrema parte et concluſione muneris, ac negotii tui, diligentiſſimus ſis: ut hic tertius annus, tanquam tertius actus, perfectiſſimus atque ornatiſſimus fuiſſe videatur. I think this proof poſitive, and ſincerely believe that little Horace, like a Sabine puppy, was impudent enough to preſcribe an abſolute rule of poetry from his own ſkull; and that we poor moderns are ſo weak as to reverence his ipſe dixit as an oracle, which for foundation hath not the ſhadow of a dream.

GRAVINA, in his book Della Tragedia, to which I am much obliged, hath well ſhewn that Ariſtotle's work on poetry is a crude and indigeſted performance, written by the author in his ſilly vanity of dictating in every ſcience then known to man. Indeed, both Victorius and Caſtelvetro agree with him, that this treatiſe [Page 231] of Ariſtotle is full of groſs improprieties and abſurdities, that could only proceed from an author's writing on a ſubject he knew nothing of. The book of Longinus on the Sublime is the ſecond ancient work of criticiſm that hath reached us; and in it the Sublime is confounded with the Beautiful and the Tender, qualities of writing directly oppoſite. So that little can be ſaid of the perfection of ancient criticiſm.

YOU ſee I uſe the privilege of epiſtolary writing; and give you my thoughts as they riſe, without ſtudying arrangement. I hope, however, I do not go to play till after I have done my buſineſs; and you know that of this Letter was to ſhew the ſuperiority of the modern drama to the ancient: a point which I hope I have proved to a demonſtration almoſt mathematical.

[Page 232]

BOILEAU, a writer of the meaneſt talents, whoſe genius was imitation, and whoſe taſte was envy, hath ſaid in ſome one of his feeble labours, that he prefers the gold of Virgil to the tinſel of Taſſo. Now the joke is that Boileau did not underſtand one word of Italian! as Voltaire tells us in Le Siécle de Louis XIV. Admire the fellow's impudence! How impudent ignorance always is! As France at that period led the faſhions of England, both mental and corporeal, it is no wonder that Addiſon, one of the beſt writers and worſt critics in the world, ſhut his eyes, and followed the French petit-maitre en critique.

ADDISON, I am convinced, never read Taſſo's Gieruſalemme; as I think it hath lately been pretty well proved, that he never read the Aminta. Had he peruſed the works of that wonderful writer, he would have bluſhed to [Page 233] challenge him for a fault which be never once is blameable of: Taſſo hath inſtances of ſpeech too figurative, but as little tinſel as Homer. He might, with equal propriety, have ſaid that Milton's works teem with atheiſm.

IN Taſſo I remember ſcarce one falſe ornament. The palace of Armida, tho the ſcene of enchantment, is not adorned with decorations of glaſs, but of diamond; as ſtrong as it is brilliant. The bird which ſings an amatory ditty, that image of the Gieruſalemme which approaches nigheſt to the bounds of falſe ornament, hath in this view nothing unnatural: it is enchantment; it is beyond nature; and of conſequence vindicable, nay modeſt, when conſidered in its proper point of light. Virgil's trees that groan and drop blood, without ſuch an excuſe, I allow tinſical and futile to the laſt degree. As to the language of Taſſo, tho he wrote in a ſtanza which muſt have compelled him to redundance, yet I pronounce it as grave and proper, with all its riches, as that of almoſt any Greek claſſic whatever, tho the Greeks laboured under no ſuch inconvenience. It is the Latins, thoſe apes clad in Grecian [Page 234] cloaths, whom we may ſafely accuſe of tinſel or falſe ornament, both of images and language. Let us conſider a few paſſages of Virgil, allowed their moſt judicious writer, in this view. I have never read his Eneid with this intent, as would be neceſſary to give a detail of all the tinſel of it, ſo can only give ſuch paſſages as at preſent occur to my memory. Indeed I never look into Virgil but with utter diſguſt, while Homer always gives me freſh rapture.

I MUST premiſe, that we are not to wonder at Virgil's tinſel, for we know that Mecenas, whom we look upon as a model of taſte, and who was Virgil's patron, was fond of tinſel to exceſs. Auguſtus uſed to rally him always on it, as we learn from Suetonius: and Macrobius hath preſerved a part of a Letter from Auguſtus to Mecenas, running thus: Vale mel gemmeum Medulliae, ebur ex Etruria, laſer Aretinum, adamas ſupernas, Tiberinum margaritum, Cilniorum ſmaragdae, jaſpi figulorum, berylle Porſennae, carbunculum Italiae, [...] moecharum. Ah, Mecenas, what a poor Mecenas thou muſt have been!

[Page 235] IN the Eneid, Book II. The expreſſion ferit aurea ſidera clamor may juſtly be arraigned as tinſical, and of falſe brilliance. A cry ſtriking the golden ſtars approaches much to glorious nonſenſe. A cry, a ſound, cannot ſtrike ſave organs of hearing, or of reverberation: ſtriking the ſtars is a puerile hyperbole: the golden ſtars, a yet more puerile epithet, on an occaſion in which their boundleſs altitude ſhould have been the idea, if an epithet was neceſſary. The ſidera lambit in the bombaſt deſcription of Veſuvius is of the ſame family.

THE ſtory of Polydorus, in the Third Book, is perhaps the moſt unneceſſary piece of empty decoration to be found in the works of any writer ancient or modern.

IN Book VIII. Virgil gives the following receipt to make thunder:

Tres imbris torti radios, tres nubis aquoſae;
Addiderant rutili tres ignis, et alitis auſtri,
Fulgores nunc terrificos, ſonitumque, metumque,
Miſcebant operi, flammiſque ſequacibus iras.
[Page 236] R. Three rays of a wreathed ſhower, three of a watery cloud. Add three of red fire, and of the winged ſouth wind. Mix them up with terrible flaſhes, and with ſound, and fear; and with anger and following fires.’

HAD this ſtood in any writer on whom our timid critics dared to exert their judgment, what laughter, what deriſion, of that tinſical author who could affront the judgment of his readers with ſuch a caput mortuum of empty nonſenſe!

IN Book XII. the horſes, ‘Qui candore nives anteirent, curſibus auras,’ furniſh another proof of bad ornament, as doth the tree in Book II. which threatens its fellers, and threatens them by ſhaking its hair at them:

Illa uſque minatur;
Et tremefacta comam concuſſo vertice nutar.
Perhaps at a leiſure hour I may ſend you more inſtances; but theſe already adduced will, I believe, prove that tinſel was a quality of writing very well known to the Roman Imitator.

[Page 237]

ANY obſervation or diſcovery, which tends to the improvement of our language, gives me particular pleaſure: I therefore agree with you in your applauſe of Mr. Sheridan's remark, that the S, which abounds ſo much in the Engliſh orthography, hath very often the power of Z. Why ſhould it not be written accordingly? Why not ſpell hiz, uz, her'z; enclozez, arizez, &c. &c. &c.? I long to ſee that hiſſing letter as ſcarce in the language as poſſible.

THE Engliſh tongue is ſufficiently ſtrong, rich, and univerſal; muſicalneſs and ſoftneſs are the only qualities it wants. The greateſt praiſe is therefore due to any writer who attempts to improve its melody. Upon many years accurate attention beſtowed on our language, it appears to me, that it is to the conſonant terminations that the harſhneſs of our ſpeech may be imputed. Some words of frequent [Page 238] occurrence are alſo very rude; and twenty words of very common uſe will, if harſh, deſtroy the tone of a language; and, if uncouthly ſpelt, will, to the eye, which ought to be conſulted in orthography full as much as the ear, injure the form of a whole language. Such foreigners find our though, through, enough, rough, tough, and all other words in ugh, ughly-headed monſters, to uſe Milton's orthography, which of themſelves are ſufficient to make our tongue paſs for a dialect of the High Dutch. How are they ſurprized to find us pronounce tho, thro, enuf, ruf, tuf! and be at the expence of horrible gutturals, to make our language have a hottentot air, which gutturals we cannot pronounce! In poetry for many a century we have written tho; thro; and ſo they ought always to be ſpelt in proſe by every perſon who hath any reverence for the eyes of his readers, the o in thro having the ſame ſound as in to, do: but if any one chuſes to ſpell throu, I have no objection. We ſhould certainly write ruf, enuf, tuf: brôte, thôte, nîte, &c. Why write ſo many towns With burgh? do not we pronounce bura? A little ridicule of ſcioliſts always attends the firſt introduction of a novelty [Page 239] into language, tho it ſhould be infinitely for the better; but this one muſt put up with, in ſure expectation of the praiſe of poſterity, and that of enlightened judges of one's own time.

THE chief fault of our language is, that almoſt all its words end in conſonants. The great point is to throw out every final conſonant which we can. Alway, for inſtance, is the old ſpelling of always, and is better: alſo is, for the ſame reaſon, ſuperior to likewiſe, which hath the ſound of a conſonant in its termination. I could alſo wiſh to ſee the old fro ſubſtituted in lieu of from; the old ne for nor is better than its ſubſtitute. If the conſonant cannot be rejected, we ſhould at leaſt ſoften it, if poſſible; and never, for example, write has, does; but hath, doth: the th is frequent in the Greek, and is quite melodious. Inſtead of draws, views, plays, throws, or even draweth, &c. I believe a wellwiſher to the tune of our tongue will write doth draw, doth play, &c. to preſerve ſuch very few words as we have ending in vowel-ſounds. The Greek and Latin, and the modern Italian and French, have not ſo many words ending in conſonants as we by a great deal. A [Page 240] matter of regret to every admirer of the Engliſh language: and indeed had not fortunately our adverbs, for the moſt part, been taken from the French, with the fine vowel termination of y, but far better in the old ſpelling ie; as namely, boldly, &c. our tongue muſt have been ſtill more ſadly hurt by conſonant-terminations. The great ſecret of writing melodious Engliſh is ſurely to draw into view every poſſible word which may terminate with a vowel.

COMMON phraſes which are ungrammatical a good writer ſhould ever avoid, tho they have high authority to ſupport them. Such are methinks, to-day, and the like. Dr. Armſtrong in his Sketches by Launcelot Temple, Eſq hath given us ſome juſt obſervations on our language. How the nonſenſical phraſe ſubject-matter ſhould be ſtill uſed, in ſpite of the ridicule he hath entailed on it, I cannot conceive. He obſerves that betwixt ſhould never be uſed for between. To which let me add, that it is quite amazing to ſee an author, who hath ears and eyes, write amongſt. Gray, tho he writes with melody, hath amidſt! Are not among and amid Engliſh words? Beſides for beſide is liable [Page 241] to the ſame objection. The diphthongs ae and oe are now unknown to our tongue, being transformed into e, and with great propriety. To words ſpoilt in our ſpelling may be added the preterite, &c. of ſome verbs. I read, I have read your book: do not we pronounce redd? and an eminent writer in his familiar letters ſpells it redde. The preterite of no verb ſhould be the ſame with the preſent, elſe inexplicable confuſion will ariſe: but barbarians have formed our tongue, and men of ſcience are afraid to meddle with it; elſe why not write hurted as well as parted, &c. &c. &c. However, a writer of any preciſion or elegance, will ever write did hurt, &c. at leaſt. Why ſhould we ſpell vanities, &c. when the ſingular is vanity? The plural ſtood ſo when the word was ſpelt vanitie, and we retain it; tho the lazineſs merely of ſubſtituting one letter for two made ſome blockhead very improperly write vanity. Such is the progreſs of our language!

DR. LOWTH, in his Grammar, ſeems not to know what to make of himſelf. If we ſay he came himſelf, it is nonſenſe: if he came his ſelf; it is not ſenſe. I wiſh each of our Gothic [Page 242] anceſtors themſelves had a drubbing to himſelf for inventing ſuch words. We uſe yourſelf in every caſe; it would ſeem we ſhould alſo ſay their ſelves, his ſelf, in all caſes: if we ſay you yourſelf, of yourſelf, to yourſelf, yourſelf, O you yourſelf, by or with yourſelf; we muſt of courſe ſay they theirſelves, of theirſelves, to theirſelves, theirſelves, O they theirſelves, by or with theirſelves: and he his ſelf of his ſelf, to his ſelf, his ſelf; O he his ſelf, by or with his ſelf. Self in old Engliſh is ſynonymous with ſame, as ſelve day, ſelve colour.

IT is mortifying to every judge of language, who muſt know that the melody and elegance of a tongue depend altogether upon its vowel terminations, to reflect that in Engliſh not above a dozen common words end in a; as villa, idea, piazza, aera, quota, ſtanza, and one or two more: lea, plea, ſea, &c. do not ſound as if they ended in a. In é not one word ends: nor in i! In o about two dozen; as go, to, ſo, wo, lo, ſtucco, tobacco, calico, portico, do, cargo, echo, tho, who, intaglio, ratio, ſolo, &c. Whoſo I would recommend to ſucceed whoſoever, as it preceded in antiquity; whereto, hitherto, are better [Page 243] than any ſubſtitutes. In u we have no word whatever, and the Romans had very few: in ou we have only two, thou, you. In y we have no leſs than 4900 words, about an eighth of our language; our words amounting to about 35,000. Of this number I would propoſe that the é be reſtored to all the ſubſtantives: for inſtance, we ſhould write beauté, treaté, ivoré, &c. as from the French. In w, as a vowel, we have a few of the moſt ſonorous words in our language, as flow, blow, new, ſaw, law, &c.

IT is ſhocking to remark that we have 1683 words ending in eſs, the moſt horrid of all terminations. This is owing to the qualified ſubſtantives in neſs, as holineſſ, happineſs, &c. moſt of which may be regarded as obſolete with all my heart, for we have ſanctitude, felicity, &c. ſo that almoſt every one may be avoided, as they always are by good writers. But the negative leſs, the great cauſe of our other terminations in eſs, cannot be ſo eaſily thrown out: yea a double ſs is now neceſſary, for we can never write endles, needles, without confuſion. What ſhall we ſay to hopeleſſneſs, fearleſſneſs, and other delicious words? They may be in [Page 244] the language, but will never be in that of a maſter of it. By the way, if we wrote z in ſtead of s, in many inſtances, we might even ſpell needlez without confuſion ariſing from the plural of needle.

EVERY country ſchoolmaſter, and compiler of grammars or dictionaries, will tell us that our language is claſſic and perfect. For lo! grammars have been written of it within theſe twenty years, ſo that it is ſtationary and quite the thing, and a very pretty thing it is. My dear friend, you know that our language is not yet one century old, as to orthography, the moſt eſſential point of any ſpeech. Look into Milton's MSS. or his own editions, and you will ſee this at once. Now I will hazard a bold opinion, namely, that our language is now infinitely more barbarous, in all reſpects, than it was in the days of Chaucer. For melody there is no compariſon; the é always pronounced, as in ſpoké, ſhaké, &c. was alone ſufficient to render it much more melodious. It is truly riſible to hear how we talk of our language. Did you never read of that village of Spaniſh aborigines, diſcovered by the duke of [Page 245] Alva's hawk, who, being quite incloſed with rocky mountains, thought there was no world beyond their barriers? This is a lively type of our predilection for our native tongue; while, compared with the Italian or Spaniſh, it is harſh to exceſs. The emperor Charles V. we are told, ſaid he would talk French to his friend, Italian to his miſtreſs, and Engliſh to his horſe. I ſuppoſe, by the bye, that, in obſervance of this apophthegm, our ſenators ſo much frequent the academy of Newmarket, in order that, by much converſation with their horſes, they may be qualified to ſpeak good Engliſh.

HOWEVER, it muſt be allowed, that if the Engliſh is too harſh, the Italian is too ſoft; and it will be eaſier to ſoften the Engliſh than to harden the Italian. The Spaniſh is not ſo rich as the Engliſh, and therefore is inferior. For the French, I know not what to call it. If we call it a language, it is as we call the droning of a bagpipe muſic. In pronounciation it is a naſal redundancy of gibberiſh: in writing — it muſt not be pronounced! Silent conſonants, a phenomenon of nonſenſe unknown [Page 246] to any other tongue under heaven, either ancient or modern, have ſuch an effect on it that not above twenty words in the whole language are pronounced as they are written. In ſhort, it is a language which ſhocks the eye and the ear, is incapable of poetry, and diſagreeable in proſe; and yet the French have their claſſies! How this pitiful tongue hath become ſo prevalent, I cannot account; unleſs it be in accompliſhment of the Scripture, Bleſſed are the poor in ſpirit, for they ſhall be exalted. The conteſt for ſuperiority among the modern tongues (I ſpeak without any ſhadow of prejudice) lies between the Engliſh and Italian.

OF theſe the Engliſh eſpecially hath vaſt defects; and is capable of great improvements. But how ſhall theſe defects be removed, and how ſhall theſe improvements be given? Very eaſily. We know, from the pillar of Duillius, that the Latin was, in the time of the ſecond Punic war, as barbarous as the Engliſh is now; yet, in little more than a century afterward, the language of Cicero appeared. Here is the point: in Greece and Rome, men of ſcience [Page 247] refined and fixed the tongues: in England the barbarous blockheads of the loweſt mob have corrupted and degraded the language, and it is ridicule for a man qualified to judge of it, even to give a new ſpelling! In France, the ſpeech which was thought fixed, hath gone thro innumerable changes even in the tenſes of verbs, ſuch as etait, avait, &c. uſed within theſe twenty years for the old etoit, avoit, &c. Milton, in moſt of his works, adopted the old orthography of Engliſh, in contempt of the mob of ſcioliſts, as he calls them; men who know nothing, yet judge of every thing, without being capable of examining, or going further than they did at ſchool. But ſince his time no writer hath had courage to bear up againſt the vulgar; and the conſequence is that the head follows the tail.

THE plan would be, my friend, that the king ſhould incorporate one hundred, or indeed all, of the moſt learned men in the kingdom: or they ſhould aſſociate themſelves, under the name of The Academy for Improving the Language. The great intent ſhould be to ſoften and tune the Engliſh ſpeech as much as poſſible: new [Page 248] modes of ſpelling, and new uſes of vowels ought to be adopted. The Academy ſhould publiſh a grammar and dictionary, in which the new orthography ſhould be uſed: and all the members, and indeed all the literati in the kingdom, ſhould unite to aſſert their proper power over the mob. I am convinced, that in Rome the written language of the vulgar was quite different from that of the learned, till a century after Cicero. In ancient Greece, and in modern Italy, the colloquial dialects varied in journeying over every ten miles: in both countries the written language of the literati conſiſts of flowers taken from all theſe dialects. Had we a ſcientific language alſo, it were an admirable inſtitution. And perhaps a thouſand years hence, when the Britiſh power may be no more, the language would ſurvive: an event which, it may be feared, cannot be effected even by Milton and Shakſpere, if the ſpeech remains in its preſent rude ſtate. I do not mean that our ſcientific language ſhould be indebted to our different dialects, as the Greek and Italian; for I know not of one Scoticiſm, Iriciſm, or provincialiſm, which would contribute in the leaſt to the elegance of our tongue. [Page 249] The ſole intention ſhould be to improve our orthography, and give us a number of vowel-terminations. The é ſhould, in particular, be always pronounced as in the: the Germans pronounce it; and, were not their ſpeech full of gutturals, the conſequence would be that it would, from this very circumſtance, prove more melodious than the Engliſh. I look upon the Greek as the moſt perfect language, both for ſtrength and melody, that ever was known: now in Greek I have found that the vowel terminations of words taken as they run in any book, are equal to one third of the language. In Engliſh the vowel terminations amount but to one fourth of the language; it follows that we want vowel terminations for about 8000 words. How are they to be ſupplied? ſuppoſe

a for all plurals inſtead of the s; pena for pens; papera for papers, &c. this would alone furniſh us with a ſufficiency in a. This ſeems the Iſlandic plural in many caſes, ſkipa for ſhips, &c. and is thus quite conſonant to the genius of our language, which is of northern parentage.

é ſhould be given to all ſubſtantives [...]n y, as beauté, bounté, &c. and ſhould always be pronounced [Page 250] in finals as famé, ſparé, moré, gracé, &c. as of old. The ie ſhould go to all verbs in y, as beautifie, &c.

i is a termination unknown to our preſent tongue, tho anciently common. Give it to all adject [...]ves in y, as healthi, weari, &c. The adverbs in y ought alone to retain it, as freely, fully, &c.

o is a fine cloſe, and is very rare in our tongue. Suppoſe it given to all ſubſtantives ending in harſh conſonants: ſuch as thoſe in b, crabo, ſtabo, webo; and in c, the publico, &c. To all ſubſtantives in d, as commando, &c. we have a vaſt number of terminations in d; and a great part will yet remain, and may, for it is not a very harſh cloſe. The f is the Greek φ, and we have not many words ending in it, ſo that no alterations need be made. g is a harſh cloſe, ſave in the very muſical ing of our participle preſent &c. Subſtantives in g ſhould take the o, as flago, eggo, &c. The ch is ſhocking, and chocking, and throwing out the h, is entitled to o, even in adjectives, as beeco, for beech; rico, for rich, &c. Our other words in h may ſtand; the iſh, in particular, is pleaſing, as ſtandiſh, a flouriſh, &c. The ck is horrid, and muſt omit [Page 251] the k it every inſtance; and take the o in all adjectives and ſubſtantives, as quaco, ſaco, &c. The rk muſt take the o. The l is an exquiſite final, and we have happily a great number. The m is bad: let all ſubſtantives take the o, as epigramo, &c. The n is not unpleaſing, the ion, in particular, is excellent. All ſubſtantives in p muſt take the o, as carpo, cupo, &c. To r and s nothing ſhould be given that can be avoided: give all ſubſtantives the o. Subſtantives in t ſhould all take the o, as facto, &c.

BY theſe alterations, and giving the plurals in a, great melody might be produced, which, tho uncouth at firſt, would in half a century become familiar and elegant. The poſſeſſive s, one of the greateſt diſgraces of our language, ought to be kicked out. But how ſupply its place? The of, or the belongeth, may ſupplant it in every poſſible inſtance; for examples, It is hers; It belongeth to her: Horace's works; The works of Horace. In fact, the of alone is known to other modern languages as a poſſeſſive.

ON the conſonants I have no more to obſerve, ſave that our lexicographers are ſhockingly [Page 252] miſtaken about the ck, which they call quite Engliſh, tho it is unknown till the lateſt times. In old writers we have lak for lack; loc for lock, &c. but never ck. That man need never go to a concert, or look at a picture, who can write Publick, Gallick, Gothick, &c. and I would praiſe him who ſhould begin to write roc for rock, tric for trick, &c. Our dictionary-mongers are ſtill more groſſly ignorant with regard to z; the name of which they ſay is izard, that is, s hard! This dream muſt have occurred to ſome ſchoolboy at the very bottom of his form, and merits pity. The Engliſh name in every mouth is ezed, and well expreſſes the ſound of that fine conſonant, which every reader of Italian knows to be delicious, and ſuperior to that of any conſonant, ſave l. It even bears repetition with more ſoftneſs than l itſelf, as grandezza, bellezza, morbidezza. What ſhall then be ſaid to thoſe teachers who have diſcovered that it was s hard; harder than s itſelf! If ſuch be the barbariſm of writers on our language, what muſt be the barbariſm of the language itſelf? If Charles V. talked of ſpeaking Engliſh to his horſe, when it had infinitely more vowels, and only one s, in words [Page 253] to which the French ſtupidity of laſt century gave two, ſuch as happineſs, &c. becauſe the French forſooth wrote grandeſſe, &c. what would he ſay of it now? He would certainly ſay, he would only talk it to its lexicographers!

THE z, in fact, is as much ſuperior to the s in ſound, as the ſoothing buz of a bee is to the horrid hiſs of a ſerpent. The ſound made by the bee is an eternal continuation of that of z; and hath been reckoned very pleaſing by all poets, from thoſe who liſtened to the bees of Hymettus, down to Milton.

While the bee with honied thie,
That at her flowry work doth ſing,
And the waters murmuring,
With ſuch concert as they keep,
Entice the dewey feather'd ſteep.
IL PENSOROSO.
The hiſs of a ſerpent or gooſe, which hath the s hard, is quite the reverſe of pleaſing.

THE diviſion of inanimate objects into male and female genders is an abſurdity from which our tongue is happily free, tho it pervades almoſt all other languages, ancient and modern. But, [Page 254] to render our ſpeech quite perfect, the very natural and neceſſary accommodation of the adjective to the ſubſtantive, in plural and ſingular, ought to be adopted. Such as, ſing. a bad pen; plur. bada pena; bad pens.

AS I know that it is impoſſible to tire you in treating a ſubject, which is ſo very intereſting to every Engliſhman, I ſhall beg leave to ſubjoin a paper of the Spectator, in the improved language which I would propoſe.

SPECTATOR, No 159.

WHEN I waz ato Grand Cairo, I picked up ſeveral orientala manuſcripta, whica I havé ſtill by me. Among othera, I met with oné entitulen, Thea Viſiona of Mirza, whica I havé redd ové with great pleaſuré. I intend to givé ito to the publico, when I havé no other entertainmento ſo them; ando ſhall begin with the firſt viſion, whico I havé tranſlaten wordo ſo wordo az followeth.

ON the fifth day of the moon, whico, according to the cuſtomo of mya foréfathera, I [Page 255] alway keep holi, aftero having waſhen myſelf, ando offeren up mya morninga devotiona, I aſcended thea hia hilla of Bagdat, in ordero to pas the reſto of the day in meditation ando prayero. Az I waz heré airing my ſelf on thea topa of thea mountaina, I fell into a profound contemplation on the vanité of human lifé; ando paſſing fro oné thôte to anothero: Surely, ſaid I, man iz buto a ſhadow ando lifé a dreamo. Whilé I waz thuſo muzing, I caſt mina eyea towardo the ſummito of a roco, tha waz noto faro fro me, wheré I diſcovered oné in the habito of a ſhepherdo with a litel muſical inſtrumento in hiz hando. Az I looked upo him, he applied ito to hiza lipa, and began to play upo ito. The ſoundo of ito waz exceeding ſweet, and wrôte into a varieté of tuna tha weré inexpreſſibly melodiouza, ando alto differenta fro any thing I had evé heard. They put me in mindo of thoſé heavenlia aira tha aré playen to thea departen ſoula of good men, upo their firſt arrival in paradiſé, to wear out thea impreſſiona of theira laſta agonea, and qualifie them ſo thea pleaſurea of tha happi placé. My hearto melted away in ſecreta rapturea.

[Page 256] I HAD been ofté told tha the roco befo me waz the haunto of a genius, ando tha ſeveral had been entertainen with muſico who had paſen by ito, buto nevero heard tha the muſician had befo maden his ſelf viſibel. When he had raiſen mya thôtea by thoſé tranſporting aira whica he played, to taſté thea pleaſurea of hiz converſation, az I looked upo him liké oné aſtoniſhen, he beckoned to me, ando, by the waving of hiz hando, directed me to approach thé placé wheré he ſat: I drew nearo with tha reverencé whico iz due to ſuperior naturé; ando, az my hearto waz entirely ſubduen by the captivating ſtraina I had heard, I fell downo ato hiza feet, ando weeped. The genius ſmiled upo me with a looko of compaſſion ando affabilité, tha familiarized him to my imagination; ando ato oncé diſpelled alla thea feara ando apprehenſiona with whica I approached him. He lifted me fro the groundo; ando, taking me by the hando, Mirza, ſaid he, I havé heard thee in thya ſoliloquea, follow me.

HE theno led me to the hieſt pinnacle of the roco, ando placing me on the topo of ito: Caſt thina eyea eaſtwardo, ſaid he, ando tell me wha [Page 257] thou ſeezt. I ſee, ſaid I, a hugé valley, ando a prodigiouz tidé of watero rolling thro ito. The valley tha thou ſeezt, ſaid he, iz the valley of miſeré; ando the tidé of watero tha thou ſeezt iz parto of the great tidé of eternité. Wha iz the reazon, ſaid I, tha the tidé I ſee riſeth ou of a thic miſto ato oné endo; ando again lozeth it ſelf in a thic miſto ato the other? Wha thou ſeezt, ſaid he, iz tha portion of eternité whico iz callen timé, meaſuren ou by the ſun, ando reacing fro the beginning of the worldo to the conſummation of ito. Examiné now, ſaid he, this ſea tha iz thuſo bounden with darkné ato botha enda, ando tell me wha thou diſcoverezt in ito. I ſee a bridgé, ſaid I, ſtanding in the mido of the tidé. The bridgé thou ſeezt, ſaid he, iz human lifé; conſider ito attentively. Upo a moré leiſureli ſurvey of ito, I found tha ito conſiſted of threeſcorá ando tena entira archea, with ſeveral broken archea, whica, adden to thosé tha weré entira, madé up the numbero abou an hundred. Az I waz counting thea arches, the genius told me tha this bridgé conſiſted ato firſt of a thousand archea, buto tha a great flood ſweeped away the reſto, ando left the bridgé in the [Page 258] ruinouz condition I now beheld ito. Buto tell me further, ſaid he, wha thou diſcoverezt on ito? I ſee multitudes of peopel paſſing ové ito, ſaid I, ando a blac cloud hanging on eaco endo of ito. Az I looked moré attentively, I ſaw ſeveral of the paſengera dropping thro the bridgé into the great tidé tha flowed underneath ito; ando upo further examination, perceived theré weré innumerabela trapo-dora tha lay concealen in the bridgé, whica thea paſengera no ſooner trod upo buto they fell thro them into the tidé, ando immediately diſappeared. Thesé hidden pito-falla weré ſet very thica ato the entrancé of the bridgé, ſo tha thronga of peopel no ſooner broké thro thea clouda buto mani of them fell into them. Thei grew thinnera towardo the middel; buto multiplied, and lay cloſera togethero towardo the endo of thea archea tha weré entira.

THERÉ weré indeed ſoma perſona, buto their numbero waz very ſmall, tha continued a kind of a hobbling marco on thea broken archea; buto fell thro, oné aftero anothero, being quité tiren ando ſpent with ſo long a walko.

[Page 259] I PASSED ſomé timé in the contemplation of this wonderful ſtructuré, ando the great varitie of objecta whica ito preſented. My hearto waz fillen with a deep melancholé to ſee ſeveral dropping unexpectedly in the mido of mirth ando jollité, ando catching ato every thing tha ſtood by them to ſavé theirſelva. Somé weré looking up towardo the heaven, in a thôteful poſturé, ando in the mido of a ſpeculation ſtumbeled and fell ou of sîte. Multitudea weré very buſia in the purſuito of bubbela tha glittered in theira eyea ando danced befo them, buto ofté when thei thôte theirſelva within the reaco of them, their footing failed, ando dow thei ſank. In this confuſion of objecta, I obſerved ſomé with ſcymetera in theira handa, ando othera with urinala, who ran to and fro upo the bridgé, thruſting ſeveral perſona on trapo-dora, whica did noto ſeem to lie in their way, ando whica thei mîte havé eſcapen, had thei noto been thuſo forcen upo them.

THE genius, ſeeing me indulgé myſelf in this melancholi proſpecto, told me I had dwellen long enuf upo ito. Také thina eyea offo the bridgé, ſaid he, ando tell me if thou yeto [Page 260] ſeezt any thing thou dozt noto comprehend. Upo looking up; wha mean, ſaid I, thosé greata flîtea of birda tha aré perpetually hovering abou the bridgé, ando ſettling upo ito fro timé to timé? I ſee vulturea, harpya, ravena, cormoranta, and, among many othera featheren creaturea, ſeveral litela wingen boya tha perc in greata numbera upo thea middela archea. Thesé, ſaid the genius, are envé, avaricé, ſuperſtition, deſpair, lové; with the lika carea, ando paſſiona, tha infeſt human lifé.

I HERÉ fetched a deep ſigh: alas, ſaid I, man waz madé in vain! how iz he given away to miſeré, ando mortalité! torturen in lifé, ando ſwallowen up in death! The genius, being moven with compaſſion towardo me, badé me quit ſo uncomfortabel a proſpecto. Look no moré, ſaid he, on man in the firſt ſtagé of hiz exiſtencé, in hiz ſetting ou ſo eternité, buto caſt thiné eye on tha thic miſto, into whico the tidé beareth thea ſeveral generationa of mortala tha fall into ito. I directed my sîte, az I waz orderen, ando whethero oro no the good genius ſtrenthened ito with ani ſupernatural forcé, oro diſſipated parto of the miſto [Page 261] tha waz befo too thic ſo the eye to penetraté, I ſaw the valley opening ato the further endo, ando ſpreading forth into an immensé ocean, tha had a hugé roco of adamanto running thro the mido of ito, ando dividing ito into two equala parta. Thea clouda ſtill reſted on oné half of ito, inſomuco tha I could diſcover nothing in ito. Buto the other appeared to me a vaſt ocean planten with innumerabela ilanda tha weré coveren with fruita ando flowera, ando interwoven with a thouzand littela ſhining ſeaa tha ran among them. I could ſee perſona dreſt in gloriouza habita, with garlanda upo theira heada, paſing among the treea, lying dow by thea ſidea of fountaina, oro reſting on beda of flowera; ando could hear a confuſen harmoné of ſinging birda, falling watera, humana voicea, ando muſicala inſtrumenta. Gladné grew in me upo the diſcoveré of ſo delîteful a ſcené. I wiſhed fo thea winga of an eagel, tha I mîte flie away to thosé happia ſeata; buro the genius told me theré waz no paſſagé to them excepto thea gatea of death tha I ſaw opening everi momento upo the bridgé. Thea ilanda, ſaid he, tha lie ſo freſha ando greena befo thee, ando with whica the wholé facé of the ocean [Page 262] arppeareth ſpotten, az faro az thou canzt ſee, aré moré in numbero than thea ſanda on the ſea ſhoré: theré aré myriada of ilanda behind thosé whica thou heré diſcoverezt, reacing furthero than thiné eye, oro even thiné imagination, can extend it ſelt. Thesé aré thea manſiona of good men aftero death; who, according to thea degreea ando kinda of virtue in whica thei excelled, aré diſtributen among thesé ſeveral ilanda, whica abound with pleaſura of differenta kinda ando degreea, ſuitabela to thea reliſha ando perfectiona of thesé who aré ſettelen in them: everi iland iz a paradizé accommodaten to thea reſpectiva inhabitanta of ito. Aré noto thesé, Mirza! habitationa wortha contending fo? Doth lifé appear miſerabel, tha giveth thee opportunitea of earning ſuco a rewardo? Iz death to be fearen tha will convey thee to ſo happi an exiſtencé? Think not man waz madé in vain, who hath ſuco an eternité reſerven fo him. I gazed with inexpreſſibel pleaſuré on thesé happia ilanda. Ato lenth, ſaid I, ſhew me now, I beſeec thee, then ſecreta tha lie hidden undé thosé darka clouda whica cover the occan on the other ſidé of the roco of adamanto. The genius making me no anſwero, [Page 263] I turned abou to addres myſelf to him ſecond timé, buto I found tha he had left me. I theno turned again to the viſion, whico I had been ſo long contemplating, buto, inſtead of the rolling tidé, the archen bridgé, ando thea happia ilanda, I ſaw nothing buto the long hollow valley of Bagdat, with oxen, ſheep, ando camela, grazing upo they ſidea of ito.

I AM ſenſible that the uncouth appearance of many of the new-modified words in this ſpecimen, will make you ſmile; but, as Themiſtocles ſaid to the Spartan general, Strike but hear me: ſo ſay I, Smile but hear me. Had Chaucer obtained a prophetic glimpſe of our preſent language, perfect as we think it, how he would have laughed! Ridicule is indeed ſo far from being the teſt of truth, that no perſon or object in nature is not capable of being viewed in a ridiculous light. Monteſquieu obſerves, that women, whoſe underſtandings are generally weak, are the ſupreme and immediate judges of ridicule. Indeed we all know, that women and children are the very firſt to perceive any thing ridiculous in a perſon [Page 264] or incident; which is of itſelf a certain proof that ridicule may be defined to be, the effect of an odd ſenſation, produced in very weak minds, by the groteſque repreſentation of things which their own feeble or diſtorted faculties occaſion. And it is a certain fact, that the weaker and the more minute any mind is, the more it is prone to ridicule; for we always obſerve, that one fool is the readieſt to find out and expoſe another.

I MAKE theſe remarks merely to guard you againſt trying me by the laws of ridicule; for, if ſo, you may laugh, and I will think, and let us ſee who will get the better in the end. For nothing is ſo manly as to ridicule ridicule, which is itſelf the moſt ridiculous thing in the World; and I even admire Mr. Gray's plan of wearing muſtachios for a conſiderable time, to ſhew that he deſpiſed every poſſibility of ridicule.

AFTER this proteſtation, I ſhall beg leave to offer a few obſervations more, on this very intereſting ſubject.

[Page 265] THE number of words in the Greek language is about 30,000; in the Latin, about the ſame. By words I underſtand thoſe put as diſtinct words in dictionaries.

OF modern languages, the Italian hath about 35,000; the French, about 32,000; the Spaniſh, about 30,000. The Engliſh hath about 35,000: Johnſon's Dictionary hath upwards of 40,000; but of theſe 5000 are obſolete, or never uſed; and all his words from Sir Thomas Brown, and other pedants, ought to have been omitted. The joke is, that with him every body is an authority!

THE Greek language hath of vowel terminations one-third, or 33 words in a 100.

THE Latin the ſame.

THE Italian nine-tenths, or 90 in 100!

THE Spaniſh, 66 in 100; or two-thirds.

THE Engliſh, 25 in 100; or one-fourth.

OF all theſe, you ſee the Engliſh comes higheſt the Greek and Roman, even now, in vowel terminations; and in initial and medial [Page 266] vowels they may be regarded as equal. The Engliſh is therefore at preſent the moſt perfect of modern languages even in ſound.

BUT to give a language more perfect in melody than any yet ſeen, the number of conſonant and vowel terminations ought to be equal. This the plan I have juſt propoſed would effect to every poſſible degree.

DID you ever obſerve that n, r, and t, are ſo frequent in our tongue as, in a fount of letters, to require triple the number of almoſt any other conſonant? The r is very harſh; and wherever any of them can be turned out, the better, tho the t be a very ſoft vowel, and the n hath a fine ſilver ſound.

IT may ſtrike you that the plural in a might have an effect like the ſupernumerary a in burleſque ſongs; as, He was a gallant knight-a, &c. But this very ſingularity of a ſuperfluous vowel, unknown to other languages, proves that we want terminating vowels to the melody of our tongue; and that a is chiefly wanted.

LASTLY, moſt of the alterations in the ſpecimen are not innovations, but reſtorations of ou [...] ancient language.

[Page 267] SINCE I am treating the improvement of language, give me leave to add a very few remarks on the preſent Greek characters uſed in printing, which are in a ſhocking ſtate indeed.

ALDUS, and the other printers who firſt printed Greek, adopted at once the moſt barbarous characters then uſed by the Greek amanuenſes. Hence the firſt Greek characters are worſe than the Roman, tho the later are very unſhapely. By a ſingular fatality the Roman character hath been improved, and brought to ſupreme elegance; while the Greek hath got worſe and worſe. The abominable contractions, which appear in almoſt every word of the firſt editions of Latin books, are now no where to be found. The more abominable contractions, and diſtorted letters, of the early Greek editions, ſtill exiſt in all their glory!

COMMON ſenſe! Common ſenſe! what an uncommon thing art thou!

THE ſtrange letters and contractions now uſed in the Greek, are no older than the tenth, century, as may be ſeen in Montfaucon's [Page 268] Palaeographia Graeca. They were introduced by moſt barbarous monks, in the moſt barbarous age; and we, more barbarous than the moſt barbarous, retain them! Before that period of deep ignorance, the Greek was all written in elegant and formal CAPITALS; of which fine ſpecimens exiſt, ſuch as the Alexandrian Old and New Teſtament in the Britiſh Muſeum, and others. After that, the Greek amanuenſes, [...], as they called themſelves, began to uſe ſmall characters, in imitation of the copiers of Latin as would ſeem, and to ſtudy to unite them. They were ignorant that the genius of the Greek and Roman written character is quite diſtinct, and that he who attempts to bind the Greek letters to one another, will totally deſtroy any ſhadow of their form. This they might have learned from the very firſt attempts, as we obſerve in the epiſtle of a Byzantine emperor to a king of France, given in fac ſimile by Montfaucon, which reſembles the Arabic much more than the Greek. Modern Greeks find it impoſſible to give a ligature to more than two letters in writing, and even then the form is injured: to write three without quite annihilating the character, [Page 269] I will venture to pronounce an impoſſibility. Some of theſe contractions and ligatures have been of ſhocking conſequence to the ſenſe of authors, as Montfaucon ſhews; and even now it takes a keen eye to diſcern between ς, s, and ς, ſt. This ſtrange jumbling of characters together, hath been one grand cauſe of the total barbariſm in which we now ſee the Greek. Another grand cauſe ariſes from the horrible contractions. Now the joke is, that all theſe contractions are elongations! It will take a man far longer to write them than the letters they repreſent. They put me in mind of & for [...], and of a contraction I have ſeen on a ſignpoſt in a village: ALEXANDERE BROWN. Yet to theſe bleſſed contractions and ligatures is it owing that the preſent Greek character is more ugly than that of any language whatever; tho at firſt it was as diſtinct and elegant as the Roman.

THE reſtoration of the Greek characters were very eaſy; and yet a printer would gain immortality by it. Let us ſee.

[Page 270] THE preſent Greek capitals are [...] Of theſe I only object to two, the Θ and Ξ; both of Which hurt the eye very much, becauſe the parts of them are detached and broken aſunder. They occur of ſeveral forms in old Greek inſcriptions and manuſcripts; but I prefer thoſe marked 1 & 2, in the little ſketch annexed, which are much more pleaſing to the eye: the Ω is far better in the form of fig. 3. as marking o long.

BUT it is in the ſmall Greek alphabet that ſupreme improvements may be made; and I ſubjoin ſuch a one as I think the beſt, after conſulting many MSS. &c. on the occaſion. The preſent ζ and ξ, in particular, are horrible apothecaries marks. For both I give their capitals with a ſlight variation in the former. It muſt be remarked, that the ſmall Greek letter never admits of what letter-founders call a ceriph, or line acroſs the terminations, as the Roman.

IN ſome books printed at Baſil by Curio and others about 1540, an Italic Greek characte [...] [Page 271] appears with much elegance, allowing for contractions and ligatures. This, if the printers pleaſe, may be called Baſil Greek. As I think this variety would be as elegant and uſeful in the Greek as in the Latin and modern tongues, I have likewiſe given an alphabet of it. The twenty-four ſmall Greek characters which I have given, I need hardly add will anſwer every poſſible uſe fully as well as the twenty-four common large Greek characters; or as all the contractions and ligatures in the world, tho as an eminent letter-founder informs me, they amount to about three hundred even now in daily uſe!

As to the Greek accents, every one knows that they are more uſeleſs, if poſſible, than the ligatures and contractions. The mark of aſpiration ought alone to be retained and made of ſome body, and apart, as what is called a ſuperior letter, in whatever form is moſt agreeable, for MSS. and printed books differ; but the beſt ſeems to be a ſmall Roman [h] turned backward, as that marked 4. In the Alexandrian Bible, thought to be of the 4th or 5th century, the only note like an accent is a dot over the γ. [Page 272] Nor can accents be traced higher than the 10th or 11th century, when they appeared along with contractions and ligatures. True it is that a Greek manuſcript was lately found at Herculaneum with accents; that is, the acute accent was put upon every vowel. A practice juſt as rational as any other in this way. The Germans alone of all modern European nations, read the Greek by the accents; and ſay [...]for inſtance, not [...]; ſo that the power of the omega is loſt, and it is confounded with omicron. Nay the modern Greeks all read by the accents, in which they ſhew total ignorance of the Greek. Nor let this be wondered at, for who of us knows how Chaucer pronounced Engliſh? The ſlender a, ſo common in our language, is not fo old as Elizabeth's time. Le Maurier, in his Memoires de la Hollande, tells us, that Elizabeth pronounced French ill; ſaying, maa foi, and paar Dieu. A ſenſible antiquary obſerves, that now ſhe would have ſaid mai foi, and per Dieu. Dance, France, with a thouſand more words, in which the a ſlender now appears, were formerly written as pronounced, Daunce, Fraunce, &c. Nothing fluctuates ſo much as language; and [Page 273] he that looks for ancient Greek among the modern Greeks will find himſelf miſtaken. They have altered the ſound of almoſt every vowel; nay have gone ſo far as to give the eta the ſound of epſilon, and the reverſe. They ſay [...] for [...], and [...] for [...], &c.

BY the bye, it is ſurprizing that not one Engliſhman, ſave Milton, ſeems to have diſcovered that the Engliſh pronounciation of the Latin is improper. The a in Latin is always broad; as is the e. The i has the power of our e ſlender. The Romans did not pronounce ſatyetas, but ſachietas, &c. &c. &c. Milton ordered his daughters to read to him accordingly, as we find in his Life by Birch. Indeed, it is as abſurd to read Latin in Engliſh as to read French ſo.

BEFORE I give you my Greek alphabet, which is not new, I aſſure you, but very ancient, I ſhall juſt obſerve, that one or two of the Latin characters might be improved, or rather reſtored. Such is the a, which would be far more elegant if given in the form uſed in writing. (See that marked *.) The ſmall [Page 274] belly is very diſagreeable to the eye; and the other would be far more round and beautiful. The g is ſtill worſe, and hurts the eye very much. It ſhould be given as that marked †, or that with §. The other characters are very neat and pleaſing. The dot over the i might however be ſpared, as quite unneceſſary, and only ſerving to injure the beauty and regularity of the line. Printers ſeem at a loſs for marks of annotation, and even thoſe they uſe are getting more and more ugly; particularly the croſs †, and double croſs ‡, which have unfortunately been called dagger, and double-dagger; and ſome learned letter-founders have now begun to form them accordingly. The § is not a proper notation-mark, as it implies ſection, and is daily uſed in the true ſenſe. The * is the only decent mark left; and this, like all the others, is made four times the ſize it ſhould be. It is impoſſible to make thoſe marks too ſmall; for it is only neceſſary to ſee them, and every eye can ſee even a point. They ought always to be very minute, and ſuperior. As I look upon the ſmalleſt parts of this ſuperlative art as important, I annex ſome new marks of annotation, and the proper form of the croſs and double croſs.

[Page 275] THO I wiſh to ſee variations for the better in the Engliſh language, yet, be aſſured, that there cannot be a variation, even for the better, in the ſincere ſpeech of friendſhip, with which I am, &c.

[...]

[...]

[...]

[...]

[...]

1Θ 2Ζ 3Ω 4 ••

* [...] g g

Heart Diamond Circlet Rose Billet Pheon Trident Anchor Chain Pomel Fusil Acorn ^[††^]

♡ ◊ [...] [...] [...] [...] [...] [...] [...] [...] [...] [...] [† ‡]

[Page 276]

YOUR obſervations on the various kinds of literary fame are curious. But there is one ſpecies which hath eſcaped you; and that is where an author writes in a ſtyle that might well give delight to the learned, and yet, by ſome ſtrange chance or other, his reputation is only in the mouths of common readers. I have a ſingular inſtance of this to produce, in a poem which, I am confident, you never heard of, but which yet poſſeſſes a merit ſuperior to that of many pieces of the very firſt celebrity. It hath paſſed thro eight editions from the year 1747, when it was publiſhed, to the preſent time; yet hath never been mentioned in any critical work whatever. The ſtyle is ſo much that of Shakſpere, that, had he written in this ſpecies of poetry, he could have adopted no other. To detain your curioſity no longer, this wonderful production is called THE GRAVE, A POEM, and is written by Robert Blair, who was all epiſcopal clergyman in Edinburgh.

[Page 277] AS I am ſure you have never ſeen it, I beg leave to lay before you ſome of its moſt beautiful paſſages, in order to raiſe your expectation to the higheſt, ere I ſend you the poem itſelf. I admire this poem ſo much, that I have procured moſt of the editions of it from the firſt to the laſt; they have various readings; and I will ſend you a copy with the moſt remarkable written on the margin. In the mean time, in copying my extracts, I have preferred the readings which I thought beſt.

SOON after a proper introduction, the following ſtriking paſſage appears:

See yonder hallow'd fane, the pious work
Of names once fam'd, now dubious, or forgot,
And buried midſt the wreck of things which were;
There lie interred the more illuſtrious dead.
The wind is up. Hark how it howls! Methinks
Till now I never heard a ſound ſo dreary!
Doors creak, and windows clap, and night's foul bird,
Rook'd in the ſpire, ſcreams loud: the gloomy aiſles,
Black plaiſter'd, and hung round with ſhreds of ſcutcheons,
And tatter'd coats of arms, ſend back the ſound,
Laden with heavier airs, from the low vaults,
[Page 278] The manſions of the dead. Rouz'd from their ſlumbers,
In grim array the grizly ſpectres riſe;
Grin horrible, and, obſtinately ſullen,
Paſs and repaſs, huſh'd as the foot of Night.
Again the ſcreech-owl ſhrieks! ungracious ſound!
I'll hear no more—it makes my blood run chill.

THE following picture is a very natural and fine one:

OFT in the lone churchyard at night I've ſeen,
By glimpſe of moonſhine chequering thro the trees,
The ſchoolboy, with his ſatchel in his hand,
Whiſtling aloud to bear his courage up;
And lightly tripping o'er the long flat ſtones,
With nettles ſkirted, and with moſs o'ergrown,
That tell in homely phraſe who lie below.
Sudden he ſtarts and hears, or thinks he hears,
The ſound of ſomething purring at his heels.
Full faſt he flies, and dares not look behind him,
Till out of breath he overtakes his fellows;
Who gather round, and wonder at the tale
Of horrid apparition, tall and ghaſtly,
That walks at dead of night, or takes his ſtand
O'er ſome new-open'd grave, and, ſtrange to tell!
Evaniſhes at crowing of the cock.
[Page 279] This pleaſing picture is finely contraſted by the following affecting one, which immediately follows it:
THE new-made widow too I've ſometimes ſpy'd—
Sad ſight! ſlow moving o'er the proſtrate dead:
Liſtleſs the crauls along in doleful black,
While burſts of ſorrow guſh from either eye;
Faſt falling down her now untaſted cheek.
Prone on the lowly grave of the dear man
She drops: while buſy meddling memory,
In barbarous ſucceſſion, muſters up
The paſt endearments of their ſofter hours,
Tenacious of its theme. Still, ſtill ſhe thinks
She ſees him, and, indulging the fond thought,
Clings yet more cloſely to the ſenſeleſs turf;
Nor heeds the paſſenger who looks that way.

IN the above deſcription there are many minute ſtrokes that infer the ſuperior poet: her now untaſted cheek; She drops: to adopt the ſound to the action; buſy meddling memory, an expreſſion ſo perfectly Shakſperian, yet not of Shakſpere.

THE following paſſage is equal to any of the moſt admired moral parts of Shakſpere; and in the true manner of that wonderful dramatiſt: [Page 280]

DULL grave! thou ſpoil'ſt the dance of youthful blood,
Strikeſt out the dimple from the cheek of mirth,
And every ſmirking feature from the face,
Branding our laughter with the name of madneſs.
Where are the jeſters now, the men of health,
Complexionally pleaſant? Where the droll
Whoſe every look and geſture was a joke
To clapping theatres, and gaping crouds,
And made ev'n thick-lipp'd muſing Melancholy
To gather up her face into a ſmile
Before ſhe was aware? Ah! ſullen now,
And dumb as the green turf that covers them!

THIS deſcription is likewiſe purely and perfectly Shakſperian:

BUT ſee! the well-plum'd herſe comes nodding on,
Stately and ſlow, and properly attended
By the whole ſable tribe, that painful watch
The ſick man's door, and live upon the dead,
By letting out their perſons by the hour
To mimic ſorrow, when the heart's not ſad.
How rich the trappings, now they're all unfurl'd,
And glittering in the ſun! Triumphant entries
Of conquerors, and coronation pomps,
In glory ſcarce exceed. Great gluts of people
Retard th' unwieldy ſhow; while, from the caſements,
And houſes tops, ranks behind ranks cloſe wedg'd
Hang bellying o'er.
[Page 281] Live upon the dead is a pitiful antitheſis; but Shakſpere would have uſed it.

ADMIRE this maſterly paſſage:

Beauty! thou pretty play-thing, dear deceit!
That ſteals ſo ſoftly o'er the ſtripling's heart,
And gives it a new pulſe unknown before:
The grave diſcredits thee. Thy charms expung'd,
Thy roſes faded, and thy lilies ſoil'd,
What haſt thou more to boaſt of? Will thy lovers
Flock round thee now to gaze, and do thee homage?
Methinks I ſee thee with thy head laid low!
While ſurfeited upon thy damaſk cheek
The high-fed worm, in lazy volumes roll'd,
Riots unſcar'd.

CONTRAST the above deſcription with the following:

What groan was that I heard? Deep groan indeed!
With anguiſh heavy laden! Let me trace it:
From yonder bed it comes, where the ſtrong man,
By ſtronger arm now vanquiſh'd, gaſps for breath
Like a hard-hunted beaſt. How his great heart
Beats thick! his roomy cheſt by far too ſcant
To give the lungs full play! What now avail
The ſtrong-built ſinewy limbs, the well-ſpread ſhoulders?
[Page 282] See how he toils for life, and lays about him
Mad with his pain! Eager he catches hold
Of what comes next to hand, and graſps it hard
Juſt like a creature drowning. Hideous ſight!
Oh how his eyes ſtand out, and ſtare full ghaſtly!
While the diſtemper's rank and deadly venom
Shoots, like a burning arrow, thro his bowels
And drinks his marrow up.—Heard you that groan?
It was his laſt.

THE paſſage, on the death of the philoſopher, is exceeding well; as is that on the phyſician, but I need not repeat every beauty: this ſtroke in the laſt is quite Miltonic:

From ſtubborn ſhrubs
Thou wrung'ſt their ſhy retiring virtues out,
And vex'd them in the fire.

THE ſexton I muſt not forget. He is a brother of him in Hamlet, but far from a ſervile imitator:

See yonder maker of the dead-man's bed,
The ſexton, hoary-headed chronicle,
Of hard unmeaning face, down which ne'er ſtole
A gentle tear. With mattock in his hand,
He digs thro rows of kindred and acquaintance,
By far his juniors. Scarce a ſcull's caſt up
[Page 283] But well he knew its owner, and can tell
Some paſſage of his life. Thus, hand in hand,
The ſot has walk'd with death twice twenty years:
And yet no youngſter on the green laughs louder,
Or clubs a ſmuttier tale. When drunkards meet
None ſings a merrier catch, or lends his hand
More willing to his cup. Poor wretch! he minds not
That ſoon ſome truſty brother of the trade
Shall do for him what he has done for thouſands.
This compariſon applied, to time is Shakſpere again:
Yet treads more ſoft than e'er did midnight thief,
Who ſlides his hand under the miſer's pillow
And carries off his prize.
No ſimile can exceed the following for paſtoral and elegant ſimplicity. Among the various tenants of the grave he enumerates
The long-demurring maid,
Whoſe lonely unappropriated ſweets
Smil'd, like you knot of cowſlips on the cliff,
Not to be come at by the willing hand.

I SHALL conclude with another ſimile of equal merit, near the cloſe of the poem, which conſiſts of about 800 lines. He is mentioning the averſion even of the good to death, tho they place eternal happineſs as a certainty beyond it.

[Page 284]
So have I ſeen, upon a ſummer's eve,
Cloſe by the rivulet's brink, a youngſter play:
How wiſhfully he looks to ſtem the tide!
This moment reſolute, next unreſolv'd.
At laſt he dips his foot; but, as he dips,
His fears redouble, and he runs away
From th' inoffenſive ſtream; unmindful now
Of all the flowers that paint the further bank,
And ſmil'd ſo ſweet of late.

I CANNOT cloſe my Letter without remarking, that there is no poem in which the verſe and phraſe of Shakſpere are ſo well followed in their very ſpirit as this. The diction is frugal and chaſte; yet, upon occaſion, highly poetical, without any appearance of reſearch. In ſhort, I recommend it to you, without heſitation, as one of the very firſt poems in the Engliſh language.

[Page 285]

A POET may doubtleſs be too much an antiquary, when treating an ancient ſubject; but he may likewiſe be too little ſo, and the laſt fault is the moſt common; tho both extremes are equally prejudicial. If a poet hath too little ſcience of antiquity, his ignorance diſguſts: and, if he hath, or rather ſhews, too much, his pedantry is nauſeous.

THE ſtudy of antiquity hath always appeared to me very uncertain; more eſpecially that relating to the ages before the Greek claſſics flouriſhed, and after the Roman period of literature was ſucceeded by long centuries of gloomy ignorance. The ſtrong light which the Greek and Roman authors caſt around them, ſerves to expoſe the moſt minute cuſtom to the eye: but in the night that ſucceeded, any object muſt be very large indeed if it ſtrikes our view, till the morning of ſcience again broke toward the beginning of the ſixteenth century.

[Page 286] THE period preceding the Greek claſſics is left to the full flight of the poet's imagination, providing he errs not againſt the coſtume of ſuch nations as are deſcribed by ancient hiſtorians. The latter period, which is indeed the period of chivalry, when the feudal ſyſtem gave new forms to ſociety, confines the poet more; yet leaves a vaſt field for bold fiction.

THE cuſtoms and manners of feudal times were perfectly ſimilar in moſt countries. The knight who traverſed the wild heaths and mountains of Scotland, was the ſame in his armour, his manners, his purſuits, with him who paced over the fragrant vallies of Spain. They had travelled to the ſame courts, fought in the ſame tourneys; and perhaps adored the ſame miſtreſs. Their caſtles were built much in the ſame manner, and alike ſituated on an inſulated rock ſurrounded by a gloomy torrent, or on a commanding hill. The manners of the Spaniſh knight might be imputed by any poet with ſtrict propriety, to the Scotiſh; and the contrary. If ſuch poet were to deſcribe a caſtle in England or Scotland, and it turned out to be upon the French, Italian, or Spaniſh model [Page 287] might it not be ſaid with great juſtice, that there muſt have been many ſuch caſtles actually exiſting; the founders of them having preferred ſuch models to thoſe of their own country? Are there not many peers in Great Britain, at this moment, who build their houſes and live in every point after foreign faſhions? Hence you ſee the abſurdity of a poet's reſtricting himſelf too much to mere local antiquity; When faſhion, caprice, and accident, are as ancient as any antiquities in the world.

INDEED, no ſcience whatever proceeds upon ſuch uncertain grounds, as that of the antiquities of the reſpective countries of the world, during the middle ages. Our authorities are thoſe of romances, in which, for aught we know, cuſtoms may be deſcribed which had no real exiſtence, on purpoſe to increaſe the marvellous; and thoſe of hiſtorians of credulous faith, and mean information. Much ſcope is therefore left to the poet; and, if he errs not againſt the coſtume of greater notoriety, he is as likely to be right as any hiſtorian, or romance-writer of the times; for, one will ſee objects more diſtinctly with a good teleſcope, [Page 288] tho at ſome miles diſtance, than a perſon with bad natural organs of viſion can upon the ſpot. If a poet, for inſtance, were to deſcribe Engliſh cuiraſſiers at the battle of Azincour; tho ſome monkiſh hiſtorian were poſitively to ſay that there were none, I ſhould prefer the poet's teſtimony to that of the cotemporary dunce; becauſe we have no relation of that battle by any writer who was preſent; if there was ſuch relation, the writer might have omitted the circumſtance from ſpite at ſome officer of thoſe cuiraſſiers, or from forgetfulneſs; or the relation itſelf might be altered and corrupted. If no faith is due, on ſuch a particular point, to an eye witneſs, what is due to a monkiſh hiſtorian, who heard it from an old woman, who heard it from a ſerjeant who was at the battle? If a poet were even to deſcribe the French king as charging our troops on that occaſion with his men drawn up in the Grecian phalanx, who ſhall confute him? Is it not at leaſt as probable as that there is in the Britiſh army a regiment of cavalry who wear helmets of Greek form? yet the laſt is a fact. Fortune delights to blend times and circumſtances, as much as to alter them.

[Page 289] NOTHING can be more riſible than to ſee a profeſſed antiquary, from ſome ſcrap of an ancient writer, deciding upon the manners and cuſtoms of a whole country and century: when perhaps the particular cuſtom mentioned was confined to a dozen of people, and totally vaniſhed in ſix weeks. I wiſh the Memoirs of Scriblerus had extended to the feudal times; that the vapid ſtudies of the mere antiquary might have been as much expoſed to ridicule in reſpect to thoſe, as to the times of Greece and Rome.

[Page 290]

YOUR deteſtation of modern Latin poetry cannot well exceed mine; yet, were all the works of it to be thrown into the fire, as you propoſe, there are one or two that I would riſk burning my fingers to redeem. The Baſia of Secundus would be one of theſe, and indeed the only entire work: in other authors I ſhould be content with two or three ſelect leaves. Theſe leaves ſhould be torn only from the poems of Caſimir Sorbiewſky; with one leaf from thoſe of Menage, tho not written by that author, being the fable of Love and Folly, by the Pere Commire. I would tranſcribe it, but it is rather long; and Menage's poems are not uncommon; ſo ſhall content myſelf with recommending it to your peruſal, after obſerving that it is in the ſimple ſtyle of Phaedrus, which you ſo deſervedly admire. By the way here is a pretty French poem with the ſame title, tho of a very different ſubject. It is by the noted Piron; and, if you have not ſeen it, you will thank me for it. [Page 291]

L'AMOUR ET LA FOLIE.
J'avois juré d'être ſage,
Mais avant peu j'en fus las;
O Raiſon! c'eſt bien dommage
Que l'ennui ſuive tes pas!
J'eus recours a la Folie;
Je nageai dans les plaiſirs:
Le tems diſſipa l'orgie,
Et je perdis mes deſirs.
Entre elles je voltigeai:
L'une et l'autre ſe reſemble;
Et je les apprivoiſai,
Pour les faire vivre enſemble.
Depuis dans cette union
Je coule ma douce vie.
J'ai pour femme la Raiſon;
Pour maitreſſe la Folie.
Tour a tour mon gout volage
Leur partage mes deſirs;
L'une a ſoin de mon menage,
Et l'autre de mes plaiſirs.
How Vida came into reputation, is eaſily accounted for. Pope, a boy of eighteen, and conſequently of little maturity of judgment, happened to light upon him at ſome dull hour [Page 292] when inſipidity itſelf appears bright; liked him, and praiſed him to the ſkies, in his Eſſay on Criticiſm. That work became popular, and there is the whole of the myſtery. You know Pope loved modern Latin poetry ſo much as to publiſh the Selecta Poemata Italorum, in two volumes; a work that does ſtill leſs credit to his critical abilities than his edition of Shakſpere.

I HAVE ſaid that in my opinion (I will not ſay humble, for that is a proud word) the Baſia of Secundus, two, or at moſt three, odes of Caſimir, and the fable of Commire conſtitute all the modern Latin poetry that merits preſervation; and I have read the poems of Fracaſtorius, Amaltheus, Buchanauus, Grotius, Heinſius, and all the men in us, as Moliere calls them, that ever ſcribbled; together with thoſe of all the names in any other ſyllable whatever to the number of many hundreds. They are all ſo many carcaſes of the reſpective countries dreſt in Roman habits. Behold a tolerable epigram upon thoſe of Italy.

[Page 293]
IN ITALOS POET AS RECENTIORES LATINE SCRIBENTES.
Vatibus hic mos eſt Italis, ut mille ſmaragdos,
Ut mille intexant verſibus aſtra ſuis:
Nil praeter flores, aurum, marmorque loquuntur;
Nil radios praeter luna-ve, ſol-ve tuos.
Denique verſiculis in Tuſcis omnia bella,
Excipias ipſos ſi modo verſiculos.

HAVE you read Caſimir? I am pretty certain your contempt for Latin poetry has hindered you. At any rate allow me to ſend you one of his odes, indeed the very beſt, inſornuch that upon reading it, I do not wonder at the high opinion Grotius expreſſes of the author, namely, that he always equals, and often ſurpaſſes Horace. I ſhall beg leave to ſubjoin to it a tranſlation of my own, upon a new plan, ſyllable for ſyllable, a little in the manner of Milton's tranſlation of Quis te puer gracilis ſub antro; ſave that Milton, and his followers in this ſtanza, have only adopted the mechanic form, not the ſyllabication, which I ſhall religiouſly preſerve. Read, and admire.

[Page 294]
AD SUAM TESTUDINEM.
Sonori buxi filia ſutilis,
Pendebis alta, barbite, populo;
Dum ridet aer, et ſupinas
Solicitat levis aura frondes.
Te ſibilantis lenior halitus
Perflabit Euri: me juvet interim
Collum reclinaſſe, et virenti
Sic temerè jacuiſſe ripâ.
Eheu! Serenum quae nebulae tegunt
Repente coelum? quis ſonus imbrium?
Surgamus. Heu femper fugaci
Gaudia praeteritura paſſu!

Now for the tranſlation. Read and judge.

TO HIS HARP.
Sonorous daughter of the pliant boxen ſtem,
On the high poplar, O my harp, thou ſhalt depend;
While laughs the ſky, and the gale
Softly revives the liſtleſs leaves.
The weſtern wind will ſolicit with gentleſt breath
The muſic of thy charming ſtrings; I the mean while,
Loſt in ſweet eaſe, will recline
Along the green of this fair bank.
Alas! what ſudden clouds invade the ſunny ſky?
What unexpected ſhowers in ſounding haſte deſcend!
Let us be gone. Ah how ſoon
Will happineſs ſtill paſs away!
[Page 295] In the original I do not like teſtudinem, ſhell, when it appears from the firſt line, to be made of box; nor the epithet ſutilis, which implies patched or ſewed together, not capable of being wrought into muſical or other inſtruments, which muſt have been the author's idea; and which, perhaps, I have not ſtrongly expreſſed by pliant. Sibilantis is unhappy, ſo I think is collum. The laſt ſtanza is faultleſs.

HIS ſixteenth Ode of the Second Book is likewiſe fine; but not equal to this. How do you like this paſſage in Ode IX. Book III.? It is addreſt to a lady.

Non indecorae nube modeſtiae
Extinguis aurum, vilius aſpici,
Gemmaſque nolentes latere
Moribus ingenioque celas.
Hinc inde rubris Creta coralliis;
Illinc ſmaragdis fulguret India;
Cum pura Virtus fulſit, omnes
In tenebris latuere gazae.

THE 15th Ode of the ſame Book, Ad Apes Barberinas, is extremely pretty. Here it is, for it is very ſhort: breve plerumque quod elegans. I deny the apophthegm however, if applied ad genus foemininum. [Page 296]

Cives Hymetti, gratus Atticae lepos,
Virgineae volucres,
Flavaeque Veris filiae;
Gratum fluentis turba praedatrix thymi;
Nectaris artifices,
Bonaeque ruris hoſpitae:
Laborioſis quod juvat volatibus
Crure tenus viridem
Perambulare patriam,
Si Barberino delicata principe
Secula melle fluunt;
Parata vobis ſecula?
Need I tell you that the arms of Urban VIII. of the houſe of Barberini, then the reigning pontiff, were three bees? Urban was himſelf no mean poet in the Latin way; and muſt have been much pleaſed with this fine alluſion to his armorial bearing; indeed the happieſt of the kind which I remember to have read.

THE eighteenth Ode of the Fourth Book, Ad Roſam, has been quoted by James Hervey, of religious memory. The full addreſs is Ad Roſam; quotannis kal. Junii Divae Virginis caput coronaturus. The two firſt ſtanzas are exquiſite, if you except one line, the ſecond of the ſecond ſtanza. Chariots with four horſes, [Page 297] by the way, ſeem a favourite inage of this writer, and ſpoil many of his perſonifications.

Siderum ſacros imitata vultus,
Quid laces dudum, roſa? delicaum
Effer e terris caput, O tepentis
Filia coeli!
Jam tibi nubes fugiunt aquoſae;
Quas fugant albis Zephyri quadrgis:
Jam tibi mulcet Borean jocantis
Aura Favoni.
I moreover don't like e terris; roſes never ſpring from the ground, but fron the roſier. The reſt, containing the religious part, is, as uſual, fooliſh enough.

THE twenty-third of this Book, Ad Cieadam, is likewiſe elegant; but the idea [...]s too ſimilar to that of the ſuperlative ode firſt produced.

WE may with propriety conclude our little treat from this writer with theſe lines of Ode 29. Book IV. After a prophecy of the future happineſs of Poland, his naive country, he tenderly cloſes thus:

— tunc mea carmina
Diſcenda grandaevi parentes
Virginibus pueriſque dicent.
[Page 298] Fruſtra: nam in urna ſurdus et immemor
Jacebopulvis. Me tamen integrae
Laui coronabunt jacentem, et
Cirum hederae violaeque ſerpent.
In a word, had the judgment of Caſimir Sorbiewſky equaled his imagination, he would have been one of the fiſt lyric poets in the world.

Do not think, however, that when, in my enumeration of the very few modern Latin poems that merit praiſe, I omitted Mr. Gray's Ode, Oh t [...] ſeveri religio loci, I meant to leave it in the flames. On the contrary, I know you would burnyour Horace ere you would put it there. But leigh ho! I wiſh it had been in Engliſh, which would have ſaved me the trouble of putting [...]t in a poor Engliſh dreſs, after the manner of my former tranſlation of an Alcaic ode of Caſmir. However, ſuch as it is, you ſhall have i [...].

Oh thou, th [...] ſtern religion of this ſevere place, for ſure
By whate'ername thou loveſt to be call'd,
No mean d [...]ty muſt hold
Theſe native ſtreams, and ancient groves:
[Page 299]
And more is ſeen the preſence of ſome awful god
Amid thoſe pathleſs rocks, and uplands wild,
Broken cliffs, and raging ſtreams,
And horrors of the woody night:
Than beneath the citron roof if pomhouſly ſhrin'd,
In luxury of gold he ſhone, and Phidian art:)
All hail! hear my rev'rent vows!
Indulge with reſt my weary youth!
Oh if cruel fortune forbids me to enjoy,
Tho much I wiſh in vain, thy ſeats of calm delight,
And law of holy ſilence;
Reſorbing me in violent waves.
At leaſt, Oh father! grant me, in ſome nook remote,
To wear away the free hours of my peaceful age;
Secure from vulgar tumult
Conceal'd by thee, and human cares.

THIS exquiſite Ode is by no means in the Alcaic meaſure, which Mr. Gray ſeems to have intended it for. The Alcaic meaſure, as uſed by Horace, conſiſts of ſix feet, or twelve ſyllables, in the two firſt lines; three feet and a half, or ſeven ſyllables, in the third; and four feet, or eight ſyllables, in the fourth. But what occaſion is there to reſtrict modern poets to ancient meaſures, tho writing in a ancient [Page 300] tongue, when they may uſe what meaſures they pleaſe in modern languages? Are not the ſtanza and conſtruction of Mr. Gray fully as harmonious to our ears as thoſe of Horace? The reſt is pedantry. Yet I remember to have once had a diſpute with the firſt of our living poets upon this very topic: but as we could not uſe the ratio ultima regum, and thought it below us to lay wagers, having the fear of Hudibras before our eyes, the fire went out after we had exhauſted our fuel.

[Page 301]

ISHALL now beg leave to conclude my remarks on the laſt edition of the plays of Shakſpere.

Vol. VIII, p. 177. The commentator tells us gravely, that fear is perſonified in this paſſage of Exodus, ‘I will put a fear in the land of Egypt.’ He might as well have ſaid will, put, or any other word in the ſentence, is perſonified. Such criticiſms make one quite ſick. Hypecacuanha is a jeſt to thoughts that ſhew an abſence of common underſtanding.

P. 179. Stare at this note, 'at mount] i. e. Mount Miſenum! At mount is ready to mount our horſes, as a child would ſee from the context.

P. 182. Warburton's note marked is worthy of the author; as is that marked in P. 254. Nomen ipſum ſtultitia.

[Page 302] P. 295. The beautiful lines of Ben Jonſon may be dedicated to Cloaca, along with his other works. Poor critic, to praiſe, as beautiful, poetry in which, tho conſiſting of only five lines, there are two falſe images, and three falſe metaphors! A fit commentator, on Shakſpere!!!

P. 376. His friends like phyſicians thrive, only means his friends act like phyſicians, and give him over. Thrive is commonly uſed in this acceptation in the north.

How the ſtupid play of Titus Andronicus comes always to appear among Shakſpere's, I cannot imagine. Dr. Percy, a ſuperlative judge of theſe matters, tells us, that it is not his, but only corrected by him. Even the annotators of this edition, in their notes at the end of the play, ſhew by many arguments that it is not Shakſpere's. Why not then, in the name of God, throw it into the fire? Will no editor ſhew taſte enough to deliver us from nonſenſe that would diſgrace a bedlamite to write or to read?

[Page 303] Vol. IX. TROILUS AND CRESSIDA, p. 9. Varlet is another name for page: gros varlets, a term for inferior ſervants. ‘Il y eut huit mille cheveliers, et eſcuyers, et gens de traits, et gros varlets ſans nombre.’ Juvenal des Urſins, Hiſt. de Charles VI.l'an 1286.

P. 10. note9. Doth not artleſs refer to art and artful, as much as ſkilleſs to ſkill and ſkillfull? Is not ſkilleſs a word unpronounceable, and not in uſe? Ohe lepidum caput!

P. 19. "Then ſhe's a merry Greek indeed." ‘Then, as we ſee wine give occaſion of mirth by his excellent ſpirit, wherewith our ſpirit is delighted, and greatly encreaſed, if it be drunke with moderation: ſo ſuch as are of merie diſpoſitions enjoy a natural wine in their bodies, eſpecially harts, and braines, which cauſeth them to laugh a [...] the wagging of a feather; and, without juſt matter of laughter, without modeſt regard of circumſtance; to beare themſelves light and ridiculous. And this, my friende, I tape to be the cauſe of merrie greeks, who ſeek rather to diſcharge themſelves of the jocond affection [Page 304] ſtirred up by their humour, then require true outward occaſion of ſolace and recreation.’ A Treatiſe of Melancholie. By T. Bright, Doctor of Phiſicke. London, printed by Vautrolier, 1586. p. 99.

I AM apt to think, that Shakſpere had read this book with much care. I know not if he derived his idea of the ſpleen being the cauſe of laughter, which he often uſes in his works, from any other ſource.

P. 22. Cre. Will he give you the nod?

Pand. You ſhall ſee.

Cre. If he do the rich ſhall have more.

This alludes to the common phraſe of calling a blockhead a noddy. Creſſida's reply means, if he gives you nod, who are already a noddy, it is like giving more to the rich. Such is the pun meant by Shakſpere; heaven knows poor enough.

P. 45. The character of blockiſh Ajax is drawn from every pamphlet, every old woman, every ſchoolboy.

[Page 305] P. 72. Fitt not only ſignified part of a ſong, &c. as Dr. Percy hath ſhewn; but even part of a diſcourſe, or other work in proſe. In The Examination of John Philpot, formerly quoted, fig. B. 5. at the end of his third examination, we find Thus far the thyrde fytte.

P. III. 'Wear this ſleeve.' No antiquary hath explained if it was the complete ſleeve of alady's gown that her knight uſed to wear in combat, or tournament. I ſuppoſe it was only what is called the cuff. The cuſtom is evident from a thouſand romances. In the Spaniſh, ſuch ſleeve is called la manga. It was commonly richly embroidered by the lady with her own cypher, and other devices.

P. 290. Paid is beat, not puniſhed. The phraſe is common in the north in this acceptation.

KING LEAR, p. 362. Old courſe is the courſe of an old man.

P. 409. 'My worthy arch and patron' is a Latiniſm, in which the component members of a word are ſeparated, for ‘my worthy and [Page 306] arch-patron.’ Horace has ſuch ſeparations, Or arch may here mean ſupport, as arches ſupport an edifice; as it evidently does in the paſſage quoted from Heywood.

P. 413. 'An one-trunk-inheriting ſlave,' every body ſees is a poor fellow who inherits one trunk only from his father; or who only poſſeſſes one trunk; for ſo Shakſpere ſometimes uſes inherit.

P. 438. ‘Do you but mark how this becomes comes the houſe?’ I do not wonder this nonſenſe hath puzzled all the commentators; not excepting the nonſenſe-reading and-expounding Steevens. Shakſpere wrote ‘Do you but mark how this becomes the nonſe, ’ i.e. the nonce, the occaſion; a word frequent to our ancient poets, but unknown to ſome ignorant corrector of the preſs, on the firſt printing of Lear; who accordingly, like other of Shakſpere's emendators, altered it to ſuch nonſenſe as he at leaſt could underſtand.

P. 439. 'Age is unneceſſary.' The commentators on this fine ſtroke are much to be [Page 307] pitied. To every mind of ſenſibility its meaning ſtarts at once, and fills the eye with tears, its beſt illuſtrators! 'Age is unneceſſary;' why ſhould I be old? would Lear ſay. Your cruelty (he is ſpeaking to his daughters) your cruelty, and my miſeries, ſhew that age is now without reſpect, and without happineſs. ‘Age is unneceſſary:’ O death, why didſt not thou prevent this unneceſſary evil!

P. 455. ''Tis foul.' This every boy knows applies to the ſtorm.

P. 518. 'Leap upright.' How the duce ſhould this require explanation, except from ſuch commentators as Warburton, whoſe muddy brains could dirty the cleareſt ſpeech? Edgar ſays he is ſo near the precipice, that, for all beneath the moon, he would not leap upright, for even in doing ſo, the ſlight bend which his body would make would throw him over; or the fallacious brink crumble beneath his feet.

Vol. X. ROMEO AND JULIET, p. 13. Shakſpere never uſes the law term of the ſame in any, even the proſe parts of his play. [Page 308] Theobald's correction is doubtleſs right: ſunne and ſame would be quite ſimilar in old writing. The lines in this edition are pitiful; in Theobald's exquiſite:

Ere he can ſpread his ſweet leaves to the air,
Or dedicate his beauty to the ſun.

P. 26. The earthquake is a mere ſtroke of fancy; and it is worthy of a right antiquary to find it in hiſtory, and in England in 1580!

P. 55. The ridicule of Shakſpere which may occur in low writers, it is ſuperlative ridicule in an annotator to place in new light, after it was loſt in the darkneſs of dulneſs.

P. 83. The goſſamer is the web of young ſpiders who mean to riſe in the air to catch flies, and ſpin a number ere they produce one in whoſe ſtrength they can confide.

P. 122. The reading of life for wife contradicted by the next line in the text, where Juliet anſwers, ‘That may be, Sir, when I may be a wife. ’ It is ſeriouſly recommended to future commentators (derived from commentum) on Shakſpere, that they read two lines before, they pretend to explain one.

[Page 309] P. 126. In the name of Scriblerus, good Mr. Steevens, pray give us your notes on Virgil! Publiſh an edition cum notis variorum, i. e. ſtultorum. Among them will ſhine your remark on Venus and Dea. Some boy of taſte will however laugh at your erudition, and tell you that Dea is one of the beſt ſtrokes in Virgil, as it attends the exertion of godlike power.

P. 142. Read 'flattering ruth of ſleep,' not truth. ‘If I may truſt the flattering pity of ſleep.’

Ib. Boſom's lord every boarding-ſchool miſs knows means ſoul, mind.

P. 147. Nice occurs often in Chaucer, and, in the Tale of Beryn, for fooliſh. It is from the French, being uſed very often in the Roman de la Roſe, in the gloſſary to which, Amſterd. 1735, 3 vols, 12mo. is this explanation, nice, ſot, ſans experience.

P. 158. Balthaſar was not aſleep; but Mr. Steevens was, elſe he would have remembered, that, p. 150. Balthaſar declares he doubts his maſter's intention, and will hide himſelf, doubtleſs [Page 310] to watch him. The dream is a mere fiction of a cunning ſervant, who was afraid of being puniſhed, if he confeſt his ſeeing the fray, as he did, without interfering to prevent bloodſhed.

HAMLET, p. 174. Polack is from the French; but the annotator ſeems not to know that polaque in French is the ſame with polacre, a coaſting veſſel. It is in old French that Polaque is equivalent to Polonois, a Polander. Montaigne, in his Travels, Paris 1775, ſpeaking ing of the Pope, ‘Outre cela il a baſti des collieges pour les Grecs, pour les Anglois, Eſcoſſois, François, pour les Allemands, et pour les Polacs. ’ The editor's note on the laſt word is, ‘Les Polonois. On ecrit Polaques; et ce nom vient de la Polaquie qui eſt le Palatinat de Bielſko.’ Montaigne wrote about Shakſpere's time; tho his Travels, which are indeed not worth publiſhing, were never printed till 1775.

P. 179. The ſuperſtition of ghoſts vaniſhing at crowing of the cock, is very ancient, as we learn from the Life of Apollonius Tyanaeus, by Philoſtratus, Book IV. ch. 5. where the apparition of Achilles is ſaid to vaniſh in lightning, 'for new the crowing of cocks was heard.'

[Page 311] P. 185. ‘A little more than kin, and leſs than kind.’ This anſwer of Hamlet to the king's expreſſion, ‘My couſin, Hamlet, and my ſon,’ puzzles all the commentators, who ſeem none of them to have known that Shakſpere was a bit of a punſter. 'Son and couſin' would Hamlet ſay is more than kin, and yet am leſs than kind; i. e. have no kindneſs for him to whom I ſtand in theſe connections. Some explain it more than kin, nearer than common kindred; and leſs than kind, leſs than friends; or no friend, as kyth, or kind, ſignifies in old Engliſh and in Scotiſh. Kyth and kin, in the latter language, I obſerve to imply friends and relations. A gentleman of Scotland, when we were converſing upon this paſſage, gave me the following inſtance of the meaning of kyth and kin. When Oliver was Protector, the judges of the court of ſeſſion, appointed by him, formed ſuch wiſe regulations and decrees, in that court, that not one of them could be reſcinded, tho their ſucceſſors in Charles's reign wiſhed to ſhew them all poſſible contempt. Sir [...]ew Dalrymple of North Berwick, Preſident of Seſſion in Queen Ann's time, upon this being remarked in convertation, ſaid angrily [Page 312] It is no wonder: theſe folks had neither kyth nor kin. Implying that the juſtice of their judgments was neither biaſſed by the influence of perſonal friends, nor of relations. The higheſt praiſe! tho meant as a ſatire on their want of connections and of birth.

P. 275. 'To die?—To ſleep,—No more?' I do not approve of the point of interrogation. The meaning requires rather a point of ſtrong aſſertion, if there was ſuch a one in typography: ‘To die is no more than to ſleep: they are ſynonymous terms, and the one implies no more than the other.’

P. 292. 'Country matters.' The commentator is ſo chaſte, that he ſeems not to know that both of theſe words are diſſyllables. Tho I ſhould be ſorry to claim the praiſe of Agnolo Poliziano, of finding obſcenities where the meaning was poſſibly innocent, yet ſuch matters ſhould either not be underſtood, or underſtood aright.

THE word unhouſeld in this play may be illuſtrated from this paſſage of Chaloner's Tranſlation of The Praiſe of Folie, London, 1549. fig. T. pag. verſa. ‘Likewiſe in howſell, and receiving of the ſacrament,’ &c.

[Page 313] OTHELLO, p. 434. Warburton's note is in his uſual ſtyle; the arrogance of madneſs mingled with the ignorance of folly.

I SHALL conclude with a few remarks, which eſcaped me in their proper places.

Joan keles the pot, in a ſong in one of Shakſpere's plays: keles is ſtill uſed in Yorkſhire for cools: to kele the pot is to lift up the ſoup with the laddle, and let it fall, in order to cool it.

Heres in the Merry Wives of Windſor. The word occurs by ſome ſingular chance in Fables de la Fontaine. ‘Cancres, heres, et pauvres diables Liv. I. Fab. 5. ’ where it implies rogues. And again in his Tales, ‘Un villageois, un haire, un miſerable. Le Faucon.

Sir Hugh in the ſame play. Knighthood was originally an eccleſiaſtic order. Sir to a prieſt is more ancient than Sir to a knight. See St.Palaye.

I FORGET where this fine paſſage is:

The poet, the lunatic, and the lover,
Are of imagination all compact, &c.
[Page 314] Compact in it means compoſed; as tho he had ſaid ‘all compoſed of, conſiſting of imagination;’ as he elſewhere ſays 'compoſed of pity.' ‘Gravitie proceedeth of wiſdome; and conſiſteth not in countenannce, but is compacte of two vertues, conſtance and prudence.’ Elyote's Image of Governaunce, anuo 1549. fol. 25.

TEMPEST. No commentator can get any notice of Proſpero, duke of Milan. I find in my tablets this paſſage of Chiabrera in his Canzoni:

—Come dell'or l'etate
Proſpero adduſſi a Milaneſi.
Now I have not the book at hand; and it eſcapes me whether Proſpero is a name, and noun to adduſſi; or an adjective to l'etate, by a typographic error for proſpera; for l'etate is feminine. I find no mention of Proſpero in Corio's very prolix Hiſtory of Milan, ſo falſely commended by Du Bos, for it is as, dull a work as ever I read.

Marmoſet in The Tempeſt. The word occurs in The Praiſe of Folie, fig. J. ſpeaking of ſelf-love in men: ‘as when one fowler than any marmoſet thinks by mſelfe to be goodlier than Abiolon.’

[Page 315] 'Aroynt thee witch.' Macheth. The word aroynt is the ſame with the Scotiſh tranoynt, depart. In the Life of Sir William Wallace, by Blind Harry, a very curious monument of ancient Scotiſh poetry, are theſe examples: ‘Wallace tranoyntit upon the ſecund day. B. 8. ’ (The army) ‘Tranoyntit north upon are gudely wyſe. Ib.

THE old Scotiſh poetry, which differs little from the old Engliſh, both being equally allied to the Saxon, would, I believe, if duly examined, furniſh many illuſtrations of Shakſpere.

LET us not diſmiſs the book without düe thanks to Mr. Steevens; to whom the readers of Shakſpere are as much obliged as thoſe of Hudibras to Dr. Grey. Both of them are completely verſed in ‘All ſuch reading as was never read:’ Both are fellow labourers in the congenial mines of dulneſs; where no man of taſte or ſcience ever dirtied himſelf. Both have explained their author, without being capable of underſtanding him.

[Page 316]

LUXURY and Literature, I confeſs, commonly go hand in hand. In proportion as the mind becomes refined, the manners become ſo likewiſe. The contrary is alſo true; for in proportion as the manners become luxurious, the mind grows refined; as liquors after fermentation run off pure. This was known to Marivaux, a great maſter in the ſcience of mental luxury; he tells us, I think in his Marianne, que l'eſprit s'epure a proportion qu'il ſe gate.

LUXURY, my friend, is an invidious name, but is in itſelf the perfection of human nature. I mean not however the luxury of a beaſt, but that of a man. Temperance is the higheſt luxury under heaven, in every ſenſe of the word. If luxury conſiſts in the free uſe of the moſt exquiſite pleaſures, temperance is luxury; luxury in the extreme; luxury without ſatiety. But this luxury is only known to the wiſe and [Page 317] the good. The learned are not always wiſe and good. The luxury of a learned age is very frequently that luxury which confounds every ſenſe by ſaturating all; luxury in the penal acceptation of the word.

THIS luxury is merely comparative. The luxury of ancient times is barbaric penury to the preſent. I ſpeak of the ancient times of our own country. Britain will probably never arrive at the luxury of ancient Greece or Rome.

THE common idea that luxury is a ſure mark of a declining ſtate is puerile; and worthy to be embraced by thoſe only who, as Lord Bacon ſomewhere ſays, are not learned beyond certain common places. Luxury is commonly a token of the progreſs and vital health of a ſtate; in ſo much that when luxury declines, the ſtate declines; as the decline of ſpirits in the human body accompanies the decline of health. Few ſtates ever atchieved any thing great till they were luxurious.

WHAT a paradox! you will ſay. Was ancient Greece luxurious, when the fields of Marathon were dyed with the blood of the Perſians?

[Page 318] YES it was. Ancient Greece was luxurious in the extreme, when the fields of Marathon were dyed with the blood of the Perſians. Read Athenaeus, and you will learn that, at that period, the very mob of Athens walked the ſtreets in robes of ſilk, and with graſshoppers of gold glittering in their hair. Their generals and officers were abandoned to a ſenſuality that diſgraces the name of man; and wallowed in all the beaſtlineſs of vulgar luxury and riot.

THE learned men of Greece, thoſe, perpetual wonders of the world, as they tranſcended humanity in ſome things, fell below it in others. Pindar, Eſchylus, Euripides, Sophocles, and others, we know for certainty, were given up entirely to a vice too black to mention. Socrates himſelf had different catamites beſide Alcibiades; tho his paſſion for the laſt was the moſt notorious. They who look upon their infamous loves as Platonic, only ſhew their total ignorance of Grecian learning, and of Grecian manners. Athenaeus, whoſe curious work every man ſhould read with diligent attention, who wiſhes to form a perſonal acquaintance, if I may ſo ſpeak, with the illuſtrious [Page 319] men of Greece, is a ſure voucher of theſe facts, for he gives the words of cotemporary witneſſes, his work being indeed only a compilation. Grecian manners, as ſhewn in the writings of their authors, did not regard this vice as of the ſlighteſt moment. Sophocles and Euripides practiſed it we know in the open fields around Athens, as we learn from their own epigrams preſerved by Athenaeus. Anacreon's odes ſhew that the paſſion was looked, upon as equally innocent with legitimate love. Tho perhaps you may reject this laſt teſtimony; for, of late, ſome wiſeacres have diſcovered that Anacreon's odes are not genuine, becauſe, forſooth, they are in a different ſtyle from the fragments of ſome cotemporary of his, I forget whom. If you have not heard of this diſcovery, I know you will laugh; but it is ſerious. Oh! Oh! Well ſaid Dan Chaucer, ‘The greteſt clerkes bene not the wiſeſt men.’ What ſhould we ſay to him who told us that Waller could not be cotemporary with Milton, becauſe their ſtyle is quite diſſimilar; ſo diſſimilar, that ten centuries muſt have elapſed between them? Did you ever hear of one Pere [Page 320] Hardouin, a madman of learning (a common character), who tells us that Homer, Virgil, and Horace, were forged by monks in the twelſth century? This diſcovery he made from their ſtyle! In fact, no ancient can be known from his ſtyle; for he is a poor writer who cannot command a hundred different ſtyles.

TO return. Such was Greece in the day of her glory. Need I produce other inſtances to evince that luxury in its vulgar acceptation is the parent of great atchievments?

THE reaſon may haply be this: contempt of life muſt produce any of theſe actions, in which life is evidently ſet down by its poſſeſſor as a mere trifle. Now this contempt is more certainly produced by luxury, than by the ferocious ſpirit of barbariſm. How! you will ſay; doth not luxury enervate a man, and make him a coward? The very contrary: it makes him brave.

TO explain this paradox: only conſider what a taedium vitae, an ennui, luxury breeds; and you will not wonder that no man deſpiſes life ſo much as the diſciple of luxury, who hath [Page 321] drunk of life till he is ſick. Men of temperance alone enjoy life, and feel its delight: men of luxury are the moſt likely to be thoſe ‘Who ſmile on death, and glory in the grave.’

PERSONAL courage indeed depends totally upon the animal ſpirits. As the ſpirits are in perpetual fluctuation, we need not wonder at a brave man on one occaſion being a coward on another. Yet luxurious living, which ferments and exalts the ſpirits, is certainly more likely to produce courage than the parſimony of temperance. Falſtaff you know, tells us, that warm blood begets warm thoughts.

THESE warm thoughts, my dear friend, will ſometimes do wonders in literature, as well as in war: and there are poets whoſe pages have much of the true flavour of Burgundy. But corporeal luxury may beget works that flaſh for a moment: temperance, the mother of mental luxury, is the ſupreme parent of great and wiſe productions.

[Page 322] I HAVE ſaid that Britain can never rival the luxury of ancient Greece or Rome. The climate forbids it. A country where the means of luxury are natives of the ſoil, will certainly be more luxurious, when a juſt and equal government permits the enjoyment of her own bleſſings, than a country in which theſe means are the produce of commerce.

IT follows not however that Britain muſt yield to Greece in ſcience, tho ſcience is never widely diffuſed till luxury is ſo likewiſe; tho luxury is never carried to a height till ſcience refines it. The reaſon is evident. Science relates to the mind, but luxury to the body. The mind acquires ideas of every luxury of every climate, tho its groſſer companion cannot enjoy them.

IT is indeed abſurd to lay down general rules upon any ſubject. Luxury may attain its height after the decline of a ſtate, as well as during its greateſt elevation. Perhaps we are now more luxurious than during the AGE OF GEORGE THE SECOND; the period of the wideſt extenſion and fame of our empire.

[Page 323] THO literature hath, in the moſt celebrated countries, attended with equal ſteps the progreſs of luxury; yet there are climates in which they have not appeared together. Nature loves to vary all her operations: the little folly of man only would confine her. His modes of acting are few. Thoſe of nature inſinite. He delights in ſyſtems. Nature knows no ſyſtems.

[Page 324]

LORD BACON, in his admirable work, On the Advancement of Learning, publiſhed 1605, hath, with his uſual amplitude of mind, pointed out in what parts human ſcience was at that time deficient. From his hints many deficiencies have been ſupplied ſince that period by writers of the firſt merit: others ſtill remain in the ſtate they were in that age. It will, I flatter myſelf, be an enquiry of infinite curioſity and importance to ſhew wherein knowlege, partly from that great man's ideas, partly from chance, and the natural advancement of the arts, hath been enriched ſince the publication of Lord Bacon's treatiſe; and wherein it may ſtill be pronounced to be deficient; and in order to this, It will be firſt neceſſary to review Lord Bacon's plan.

HE divides learning into three parts, correſpondent to the three grand attributes of the mind: Hiſtory to the memory, Poeſy to the imagination, and Philoſophy to the judgment.

[Page 325] HISTORY he divides into Natural, Civil, Eccleſiaſtical, and Literary. The three firſt he allows as extant, the laſt as deficient.

HE however afterwards ſubdivides NATURAL Hiſtory into three ſorts; that of Nature in courſe: that of Nature erring, or varying: and that of Nature altered, or wrought: that is, ſays he, Hiſtory of Creatures; Hiſtory of Marvails; and Hiſtory of Arts. The firſt he notes as extant in perfection: the two latter are ſo weakly treated that he remarks them as deficient.

CIVIL Hiſtory he divides into Memoirs: perfect Hiſtories; and Antiquities; which laſt he denominates remnants of hiſtory that have eſcaped the ſhipwreck of time. In the firſt and laſt he can report no deficience, as being imperfect in their very nature.

THE ſecond ſpecies, or perfect Hiſtory, he ſubdivides into Hiſtory of a Time, or Chronicle: of a Perſon, or Liſe; what we now call Biography: and of an Action, or Relation. All of theſe claſſes he allows deficient in his own country.

[Page 326] ECCLESIASTICAL Hiſtory, which is indeed that of human madneſs, need not be inſiſted on.

HE then enumerates what he calls appendices to Hiſtory: theſe are Apothemes, Orations, and Letters. His remark on the laſt I muſt beg leave to quote. ‘Such Letters as are written for wiſe men are of all the words of men, in my judgment, the beſt; for they are more natural than orations, and public ſpeeches; and more adviſed than conferences, or preſent ſpeeches.’ In theſe he hath no deficiencies to propound.

IN Poetry he can report no defect, it having no progreſs.

PHILOSOPHY he divides into Divine, Natural, and Human. Leaving the friſt to ſupernatural heads, we ſhall proceed to the ſecond, which he ſays conſiſts in Natural Science, and Natural Prudence. Natural Science he ſubdivides into Phyſic, and Metaphyſic: the firſt the knowlege of matter, of all that has only being and metion; the laſt that of ſpirit, mind, abſtract idea. In Phyſic he can find no defect; for many authers had written on it, tho with what truth he pretends not to determine.

[Page 327] METAPHYSIC relates to forms and qualities; as colours, vegetation, gravity, levity, tenuity, denſity, hear, cold, &c. and, ſecondly, to final cauſes; as, if the leaves of trees are meant to protect the fruit, &c. The firſt he brands as deficient; the latter he allows extant, but wiſhes it confined to its prober place.

HE adds to Natural Science that of Mathematics, in which he obſerves no deficience.

NATURAL Prudence, or the practical part of Natural Philoſophy, he divides into Experimental; Philoſophic, or that ariſing from a knowlege of Phyſical cauſes; and Magical, which he ſeems ſo to denominate as, from proſound diſcovery, being capable of operations, thought ſupernatural; as the prolongation of life beyond the natural term, &c. This he reports as defective.

IN treating of Natural Prudence he recommends An Inventory of the Eſtate of Man, containing all the inventions extant; from which will follow a juſt idea of what is not yet invented.

[Page 328] HE adds to Natural Philoſophy a diviſion of Doubts or Problems, general and particular: the firſt conſiſting of opinions of philoſophers not yet fully eſtabliſhed, or refuted; the laſt of problems like thoſe of Ariſtotle; after, from experiments, &c. only doubt, and not clear truth, could ariſe. In this he recommends a Calendar of Popular Errors.

WE are now happily arrived at what he improperly calls HUMAN Knowlege, by which he means the KNOWLEGE OF OURSELVES: a part of ſcience of the higheſt uſe and dignity; and to which all the reſt are but trifles. This he divides into two grand heads, the Knowlege of Man ſegregate, or conſidered as an individual; and Civil knowlege, or the ſcience of ſociety and government.

THE deſiciencies noted in the firſt are Medicinal Hiſtory, or Narrations of Caſes: omiſſions in Anatomy: raſh pronounciations by Phyſicians upon diſeaſes: impropriety of receipts, &c. all mere trifles in compariſon of what might be expected from ſuch an Author.

[Page 329] KNOWLEGE of the Mind he divides into two parts; that of the Nature, and that of the Faculties of the ſoul. The firſt he confeſſes beyond the ſphere of human ſcience. Divination and Faſcination he adds to this as ſmall appendices; fooliſhly enough, for there are, without doubt, no ſuch things in being. They ſhould have fallen under the head of Poetry.

THE knowlege of the Faculties of the Mind he likewiſe ſubdivides into two kinds; that of the Underſtanding, and that of the Paſſions; or Rational and Moral.

THE firſt contains the Four intellectual arts: that of enquiry, or invention; that of examination, or judgment; that of cuſtody, or memory; and that of elocution, or tradition. Invention relates to arts; and to ſpeech and arguments, or rhetoric and logic; over which the province of Judgment likewiſe extends. He conſiders Memory; then paſſes to Tradition, which is either by ſpeech or writing, to it therefore belong Grammar and Rhetoric: he here treats of the methods of communicating knowlege, and recommends the Socratic plan [Page 330] of leaving every thing in doubt; this he calls methodus ſincerus, ſive ad filios ſcientiarum. After ſome hints on Rhetoric, he paſſes to two appendices to the Tradition of ſcience; one of which he calls Critical, and the other Pedantic knowlege. The firſt he divides into five points.
  • 1. Editing and correcting books.
  • 2. Annotations explaining them.
  • 3. Knowlege of the times in which the books were written.
  • 4. Judgment on Authors, pointing out what books deſerve reading, what not.
  • 5. The diſpoſition of ſtudies, or in what order books ought to be read.
PEDANTIC knowlege, or that of a ſchoolmaſter admits four diviſions.
  • 1. Timing of knowlege,
  • 2. Progreſs from eaſy authors to difficult.
  • 3. Knowlege of the difference of talents.
  • 4. Exerciſe: under which head he includes manners, and education in general.

MORAL PHILOSOPHY he conſiders at ſore length; and with his uſual ſtrength and accuracy except in ſome compliments to James I. to whom his work is addreſſed, and who was the moſt fooliſh and baſe prince who ever diſgraced a throne.

[Page 331] SOCIAL SCIENCE he next conſiders, with great wiſdom, under the heads of Converſation, and of Buſineſs. His thoughts on this moſt important head are happily given in no very contracted bounds; and are almoſt worth the whole large work of Charron. I look upon this as by far the moſt valuable part of his moſt valuable performance.

THE other head of CIVIL KNOWLEGE, or that of Government and Laws, he treats with timid brevity; and it is no wonder when writing to a king, and to an ideot king.

DIVINE Learning, or Divinity, is the final part of his work; and on this he writes mere nonſenſe like Milton, and other great men, whoſe prejudices were too ſtrong for all their talents; or who thought, loquendum ut vulgus, ſentiendum ut ſapientes.

SUCH is the Analyſis and very ſoul of this great work. Let us now proceed to what was propoſed in the beginning of this Letter; and endeavour to point out in what parts ſcience hath been improved ſince its publication, and [Page 332] in what parts it is yet deficient: an undertaking which, if executed in its due extent, would be worthy of ſome Bacon of this age, if ſuch there can ariſe; and were of the very firſt importance to mankind of any literary labours whatever. This is meant as an apology for the ſlight attempt to be made in this Letter, which, it is hoped, you will receive with your uſual indulgence of friendſhip: for even ſuperficial hints on ſuch a ſubject are of no ſmall daring. Yet literary courage and ſpirit of diſcovery you have not ſeldom imputed to your friend. Rinaldo indeed, you told him lately, was his model, when you quoted

E volge intorno gli occhi, e quella ſtrada
Sol gli piace tentar, ch'altri diſpera.
Let him plead in excuſe theſe equal lines in the very next ſtanza:
Ogni riſchio al valor ſempre è ſecuro;
Tutte le vie ſon piane a gli animoſi.
Courage! If he fails, write on his epiſtolary eſſay, Magnis tamen excidit auſis.

WITHOUT further preſace, the firſt ſubdiviſion of Natural Hiſtory, tho conſidered as extant by Lord Bacon, he means in Pliny, Geſner, and [Page 333] Aldrovandus, hath received ſuch vaſt improvements, ſince his time, by the labours of Buffon, and other eminent Naturaliſts, that it evidently appears that he had been raſh in marking it as not deficient. Botany, in particular, hath acquired a new and ſcientific form by the univerſal adoption of the Linnaean or ſexual ſyſtem.

THE ſecond ſubdiviſion, on Hiſtory of Wonders in nature, is yet wanting, tho in the Philoſophic Tranſactions, and elſewhere, are funds, properly evidenced, for at leaſt a firſt volume of ſuch a work; than which nothing could well be more intereſting, even to the idle and the ignorant.

IN the hiſtory of Arts, France hath done ſo much as almoſt to move me to aſſume Lord Bacon's authority, and put it down as no longer defective. The hiſtory of moſt arts may now be found either in the Encyclopedie; or publiſhed ſeparately by men of ſkill.

IN Civil Hiſtory the article of Memoirs was defective in England in Lord Bacon's time. [Page 334] France indeed had Joinville, Froiſſart, Commines: Italy Guicciardini. There are no ancient Memoirs of claſſic times, ſave thoſe of Xenophon and Caeſar. But the article was deficient, and is ſtill in this country. The Scotiſh authors in this way are pretty numerous: Melville hath vaſt merit in every view; Burnet's Memoirs, or, as he calls them, Hiſtory of his Own Time, may be pronounced the very beſt work on our hiſtory yet extant. His talents and honeſty are ſo great, that I agree with Henry Fielding that he is the chief of our hiſtorical writers, tho he be ſometimes too credulous; as, for inſtance, in relating the death of James the Second's ſon, whom he thought ſuppoſititious. The laughers who are wits to fools, and fools to men of wit, were againſt him: Pope and Bolingbroke, and the whole of that deteſtable Jacobite ſet, united their ſtrongeſt efforts to depreſs the work with too much ſucceſs: and ſome pitiful curs of our own time have joined in the cry. But if Burnet's Memoirs are not very ſoon univerſally read and admired, this country will ſpeedily become a province of France. Dr. Johnſon hath juſtly praiſed his fine ſtyle; that of his [Page 335] Hiſtory is excellent, and hath all the ſtrength and clearneſs of Hume, without his barbariſms. You will obſerve that I do not look upon the work of Thuanus as Memoirs, but as univerſal hiſtory: it is not in the ſtyle of Memoirs, as Burnet's Hiſtory is. Chronological abridgments of Hiſtory are highly valuable; but muſt be written with quite different talents from thoſe of Henault, whoſe work is without taſte and without knowlege. It has ſold however— becauſe he was a Preſident.

ANTIQUITIES, in Lord Bacon's acceptation, relate, as he expreſſes it, ſolely to fragments that have eſcaped the ſhipwreck of time. Such are the parts of Diodorus Siculus and of Polybius that have reached us. Antiquities, in our modern phraſeology, imply all that is properly the province of an Antiquary; the ſcience of ancient cuſtoms, manners, buildings, dreſſes, coins, &c. &c. &c. This ſcience, when applied to man and manners, is very amuſing and entertaining; and as it has eſcaped Lord Bacon, allow me to put it down as an appendix to civil hiſtory; and only deſicient in Lord Bacon's ſenſe, when ſpeaking of what he calls Antiquities, that is as imperfect in its very nature, and always admitting of further diſcovery.

[Page 336] THE ſcience of Medals forms another appendix to civil Hiſtory, and that of the firſt importance, as they afford the ſtrongeſt collateral evidence of its truth that can be given. It is ſurprizing this elegant ſtudy is not more general, for it certainly ſtands very high in the claſs of ſcientific amuſements. Nay the philoſopher who writes, or peruſes hiſtory, for that greateſt of purpoſes, the knowlege of human manners, will learn more from medals than from the beſt hiſtories.

ANOTHER appendix to civil hiſtory let me mark in Parochial and County Hiſtory; and that of particular towns and villages, which like the former will always be defective. Many ingenious men have however laboured very much in it of late.

TRAVELS ought to have been noted as a ſmall appendix to Memoirs, being indeed Memoirs of a perſon's life for the time he was upon his journey. The credulity and ignorance of ancient travellers are now fallen into deſerved contempt; and men travel who carry philoſophy and taſte, and knowlege of hurnan [Page 337] nature, along with them. Many excellent books of voyages and travels now grace the Engliſh tongue in particular. The travels of Brydone are even full of ſublime deſcription; and would have been the firſt book of the kind, had not the Publiſher forced him to make two volumes of what he had written in one. Hence his letter on comets is as contemptible as his letter on Etna is admirable.

LORD BACON well marks Perfect Hiſtory as deficient in his own country, in all its branches of what we call General hiſtory, Biography, and Hiſtory of a particular event. He regrets in particular the want of a Hiſtory of England, and another of Scotland. The firſt is yet wanting, for all hiſtories yet written will miſlead, and not inſtruct any friend to the liberties of his country; the Rhapſody of Mrs. Macaulay being no exception. The latter is not much better; for Robertſon is only a biographer on a larger ſcale.

BRITISH Biography is a province ſuſceptible of much improvement, tho we have the Biographia Britannica; a work unhappily confined by its ſize to great libraries.

[Page 338] WE, have no Event related on the plan of Saluſt, tho the French have, in the Hiſtory of the Spaniſh Conſpiracy at Venice, by the Abbé de St. Real.

MR. GIBBON hath perhaps given birth to a new kind of Hiſtory, comprehending all Lord Bacon's diviſions of perfect hiſtory; for The Hiſtory of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is the relation of a vaſt Event, extending to the form of a Chronicle, and comprizing Biography; as the life of a, Roman emperor is in fact the Hiſtory of the Roman world during his reign. His two firſt volumes are well written, tho not without ſmall faults, ſuch as his ſeeming utterly to forget that there was ſuch a writer as Plutarch, and ſuch a prince as Titus in the world: and the chapters on Chriſtianity; which, not to ſay they are foreign to his work, are vaſtly too long. His four laſt volumes (I ſpeak of the octavo edition) betray a jaded attention. He is evidently fatigued with his ſubject; and of conſequence imagines the reader muſt be ſo: to relieve him he gravely tells ſtories of miracles, &c. thinking to amuſe; but nonſenſe doth not amuſe. [Page 339] The ſtyle is rather incorrect likewiſe in theſe four volumes; which are evidently written for ſale, as the firſt two are for fame; it is even ſometimes puerile, as where he ſpeaks of an emperor being diſtinguiſhed no leſs by the preeminence of his rank; than by the preeminence of his fear of a barbaric invaſion. In the next page, however, is to be found the moſt ſublime metaphor I have obſerved in any hiſtorian. His Concluſion is pitiably unfortunate; and more worthy of an old woman, who had been frighted into hyſterics by reading a ſixpenny hiſtory of the ſack of Rome by Alaric, than of a man of ſcience. He ſeems even to forget that America teems with more barbarians (his bugbears) than all the reſt of the world put together. Let him reviſe his Hiſtory, and it will ſtand among the very firſt in the world. Above all things let him be leſs a Geographer, and more a Chronologer. Geography and Chronology have well been called the two eyes of Hiſtory; but he has extinguiſhed the latter, as hoping the other would ſhine more brightly.

[Page 340] SUCH are the faults that have occurred to me in that grand work; which, when completed in its utmoſt extent, will with all its blemiſhes be a noble acceſſion to the treaſures of Engliſh literature. Nothing but my high regard for the work and its author could have induced me to ſo particular a diſcuſſion; for none but works of the firſt order deſerve to have their errors pointed out, for thoſe of others will not miſlead.

A MOST important acceſſion hath lately been made to the province of Hiſtory by the philoſophic ſpirit, that is daily ſpreadiug to every corner of the world, and every branch of ſcience. This hath induced latter hiſtorians to blend the intereſting hiſtory of ſociety and manners with the dry detail of true facts, and imaginary cauſes. This is an improvement which even the prophetic genius of Bacon could not forſee; and ſhews that Time is the greateſt of philoſophers.

A BOOK of Apothemes, and even an excellent collection of jeſts and ſtrokes of wit, are yet wanting in our language; tho the latter [Page 341] would, if executed by a man of taſte and ſelection, be as amuſing as the former would be inſtructive. Plutarch hath collected the apothemes of the ancients; Caeſar had collected a book of jeſts: as Poggius hath done ſince in Latin, Dominichi in Italian, and Melchior de Santa Cruz in Spaniſh. The amuſements of Julius Caeſar cannot be unworthy of a man of the firſt fame and talents: and it lies with the collector, and not with the ſubject, that our jeſt-books are confined to the ſtall.

IN the Epiſtolary Style we have Howel, a writer of wonderful merit, and by no means ſo much eſteemed as he ought to be; and Mr. Melmoth, who in his Letters of Sir Thomas Fitz-Oſborne hath merit, and hath met with proportionable eſteem, in ſpite of his Greek names, which make the work look like a romance of Queen Elizabeth's time. I need not ſpeak of Lady M. W. Montague, whoſe Letters are, in my opinion, much ſuperior to thoſe of the Marchioneſs de Sevigné, tho both have the very firſt claim to public praiſe that any woman's work can have, that of not being written for public praiſe. The letters of our [Page 342] profeſſed authors, publiſhed with their other works, I need not mention, but ſhall barely obſerve that thoſe of Mr. Gray leave the others far behind.

OF Poetry I ſhall ſay nothing, but that we ſtill want in England a Comic Epic Poem, in the ſtyle of the Morgante, and the Ricciardetto.

THE improvements and advances, both of what Lord Bacon calls the Phyſical and Metaphyſical parts of Natural Philoſophy, have ſince his time been amazing, and moſtly in conſequence of the hints of this profound writer. Mr. Walpole, in his admirable Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors, calls Bacon the prophet of arts, which Newton was afterwards ſent to reveal. Yet Bacon was not merely a vox clamantis in deſerto, as a wag ſaid a preacher to empty benches was; but actually made many experiments to aſcertain his own philoſophy; to one of which he fell a martyr. The ſyſtem of Des Cartes hath riſen and ſallen ſince Bacon; that of Newton hath riſen and keeps its ground. Galileo hath improved Aſtronomy; and others have almoſt perfected it, [Page 343] till a new planet, concomitant of the earth, hath been within theſe very few years diſcovered. Why ſhould I ſpeak of the thermometer, the barometer, and a thouſand ſuch inventions; or of electricity and electric fire, a new power, and new element, if I may ſo call it, tho it is in fact the element of fire, before only known materially? Why ſhould I mention all the minute inventions, ariſing from experimental philoſophy, of which Lord Bacon is the father; and to be found in the Philoſophic Tranſactions, and Memoirs of innumerable foreign academies? This you know is a letter not a treatiſe. I ſhall content myſelf with obſerving that Natural Science and Natural Prudence, tho ſeparated by Lord Bacon, have been ſince wedded; and have produced a great number of very fine and healthy children.

THE Inventory of the Eſtate of Man, than which nothing could well be more curious and intereſting, is yet wanting to the world; tho its plan doth not ſeem of extremely difficult execution.

[Page 344] BROWN hath happily executed a Calendar, or Catalogue, of Vulgar Errors, tho in a moſt pedantic ſtyle of Latin Engliſh, and which hath, to the great credit of our taſte, been revived in England, after being dead a whole century.

UNDER the article of Mathematics it might have been noted, that the invention of Logarrithms, about Five years after the publication of Lord Bacon's book, hath greatly facilitated the ſolution of queſtions in this ſcience. Navigation, Geometry, &c. have likewiſe received many improvements, both minute and important; tho it would extend this Letter to too great a length to enumerate theſe improvements. I haſten therefore to the moſt important part of Lord Bacon's work, and of human ſcience, which is

THE KNOWLEGE THAT IMMEDIATELY RELATES TO MAN HIMSELF, CONSIDERED AS AN INDIVIDUAL, AND AS A MEMBER OF SOCIETY.

LET me make one prefatory obſervation on this greateſt branch of human knowlege, [Page 345] which is, that it hath ever moved my higheſt wonder that, while Sir Iſaac Newton, and other men of the largeſt genius and moſt ſevere faculties, have pointed the whole ardor of their minds to theories of worlds, of gravitation, colours, and other baubles, of no more conſequence to man than a collection of butterflies; this, almoſt the only part of ſcience that is of importance to human kind, ſhould remain deſert and uncultivated. Surely nothing can be a more humiliating inſtance of human folly than that men, and men of talents, ſhould neglect the only province of wiſdom that immediately intereſts mankind; and ſhould ſeem to prefer a parcel of idle and airy ſpeculations to the grandeſt part of human knowlege; that which tends to make man wiſer, better, and happier; to improve ſociety, and government; and inſtitute a paradiſe upon earth.

TO deſcend to the ſmaller diviſions of this ONLY TRUE KNOWLEGE, ſome of which however are trifling in reſpect of others:

THE deficiencies of Medicine need not be noted, as it is all one defect.

[Page 346] LOCKE'S Treatiſe upon Human Underſtanding is a moſt acute work, but tends not to increaſe the practical wiſdom of man. The nature, progreſs, and exertion, of ideas are merely ſpeculations, and have a great chance of falſity; for we confeſſedly know nothing of the nature of the mind, which is their productor. It is the proper application of ideas that man needs to be inſtructed in. What is it to me from what rarifications of earth the gold of this guinea is formed? The point is, how am I to uſe it with propriety ſo as to benefit myſelf and others?

THE whole diviſions of Rational Knowlege are ſtill deficient; and will be, till ſome men of vaſt talents apply to them, and not with a ſpeculative, but with a practical bent of mind.

THE appendices of Rational Knowlege, being Critical and Pedantic ſcience, have received great improvements, eſpecially in England, ſince the publication of the work On the Advancement of Learning: yet deficiencies may ſtill be noted. A general collection of critical obſervations would be of much utility, where [Page 347] a ſyſtem were ridiculous. Elements of Criticiſm form a good title, but a woeful book: full of falſe Elements and falſe Criticiſm. Blair's Lectures on the Belles Lettres are no better; he being the mere ape of the French critics, and never venturing beyond his leadingſtrings. It is indeed the great fault of our critics that they ſo ſeldom think for themſelves. The two Wartons are almoſt the only critics we have who have ſhewn a genuine taſte.

PEDANTIC knowlege hath however made ſlower advances than criticiſm, tho it is of infinitely more conſequence. When will man acquire wiſdom enough to leave the purſuit of big trifles for that of ſmall things that moſt import him?

THE ſyſtem of education is ſtill fooliſh. Rouſſeau hath pointed out ſome improvements, but a defect almoſt inſeparable from great views is, that they are always waſted in ſpeculation. Hence few of his remarks can be of any practical uſe.

[Page 348] ONE of the moſt glaring defects in the preſent ſtate of Pedantic Science is, the great time waſted in acquiring dead languages, which, in nine caſes out of ten, are of no uſe to the child, but in fact are quite neglected and forgotten by him in a few months after he hath left ſchool. Perfection of folly! To waſte the moſt precious years of human life in acquiring uſeleſs languages, and languages that are to be forgotten! O caecas hominum mentes! Where a boy is intended for any of the learned profeſſions, or is heir of an eaſy fortune, the ſtudy of languages is proper; but in this order: one year for the Engliſh; one year for the Greek; one year for three other tongues, the Latin, Italian, and French: but, while ſtudying theſe languages, they ſhould be conſidered as amuſements, and relaxations, as learning the French is now, while the ART OF BEING A MAN ſhould be conſidered as the buſineſs of a boy's education. Domeſtic and Social Wiſdom; Virtue and Hanpineſs; all the honeſt arts of making life delightful, reſpectable, and important to ſociety; theſe ought to form the eſſence and great object of education. It is a trite obſervation, that girls arrive ſooner at womanly manners [Page 349] and knowlege, than boys do at the manners and knowlege proper for their ſex. This is aſcribed to Nature having aſſigned a previous maturity to females. The fact is, it is the conſequence of the different modes of education. A girl is doing the honours of the table, and winning every body by her poliſhed converſation, while a boy is blubbering over an uſeleſs book. His being a man all his life is of no conſequence, provided he is a ſcholar for a few years!—Prejudice! Prejudice! When will the happy period arrive that humankind ſhall break thy deteſtable ſhackles, only ſtrong from the weakneſs of the wearers! When will the awful voice of Nature ſound to the human mind, Be free!

IN Moral Philoſophy and Social Science, theſe greateſt diviſions of this grand part of knowlege, few or no advances have been made. The leſſer morals have perhaps been improved by the Spectator, and other works of the kind, being univerſally read: and the importance even of the leaſt points of morality is ſo great that I believe every man of a ſound and benevolent mind will agree, that there is more real [Page 350] glory in having written two pages that have actually taught mankind how to be virtuous and happy, than in compoſing whole ſyſtems of ſpeculation; more illuſtrious fame ariſing from one of Mr. Addiſon's papers in the Spectator, than from the whole works of Sir Iſaac Newton, even tho he had demonſtrated an acute and ſtupendous theory of deity itſelf.

CIVIL Knowlege, or that of Government and Laws, hath certainly admitted no ſmall improvements ſince Lord Bacon's age. Not only books of merit have been written upon theſe points; but, what is of far higher moment, the practical operation of Government and Laws hath in moſt kingdoms been rendered more beneficial. It is amazing indeed to conſider how widely philoſophy hath ſpread the light of liberty and happineſs over great part of the world within a ſhort period of time. The reduction of the papal power in many of the kingdoms where it was moſt predominant is, in particular, a grand epoch of the triumph of ſcience over folly and fanaticiſm. What may we not hope when ſuch is the beginning of the reign of Philoſophy? A perpetual peace among [Page 351] all the powers of Europe, in which every uſeful and elegant art ſhall be carried to a perfection unknown even to the dreams of viſionaries, might almoſt no longer be regarded as an idle imagination.

WITH regard to theoretical knowlege of Laws and Government, the work of Monteſquieu deſerves mention, tho its brief, and apparently deep and dictatorial ſtyle hath acquired it infinitely more fame than it deſerves. The treatiſes of Millar and Ferguſon on Civil Society have merit, tho by no means of the firſt kind: the laſt author in particular being the dryeſt whom I ever remember to have read; inſomuch that the moſt intereſting ſubjects loſe all intereſt in his frigid pages.

CAN I paſs the ſubject of Government and Laws without expreſſing an ardent with for a reform of thoſe of our yet happy country; for tho her ſun be ſet, as ſtateſmen tell us, yet it is a very fine evening, and promiſes a future bright day. That a CODE OF ENGLISH LAW ſhould never yet be thought of by the legiſlature, is one of the ſtrangeſt inſtances of the [Page 352] melancholy truth, that human affairs are governed by Chance, and not by Wiſdom. But God forbid that it ſhould be attempted during this tory reign, in which we behold judges carrying politics into the bench of impartial juſtice, as violently as in the reign of James II. in ſpite of the infamy of Jeffries which awaits them. Indeed, it may ſafely be ſaid that the laws of this country are either a diſgrace to the conſtitution, or the conſtitution to the laws; for it is a certain fact, however paradoxical it may ſeem, that they are often in direct oppoſition to each other. To inſtance in one point, it is a maxim in the law, as tories tell us, that the king can do no wrong. By the conſtitution of this country, according to two precedents, the king can not only do wrong, but be put to death, as Charles I. or baniſhed, as James II. according to the offence. But I forget that I am talking of our liberties, after they are ACTUALLY LOST from this very cauſe of the laws being deſtructive of the conſtitution: for caſes of libel, or of treaſon, are the moſt delicate and chief objects between prince and ſubject; and, thanks to our Jacobite judges, an information is lodged ex officio by the Attorney General, a Special Jury is [Page 353] packed by the judge, and muſt obey his commands; if they, fail in any point, they are browbeaten, and taught to know better; and thus every ſubject who ſteps forth to defend the rights of his brethren, is the ſlave of the ſlave of the king. Thus it is in the power of any prince, who ſhall even want common faculties, to overturn our conſtitution, and enſlave us by our own laws. Monteſquieu hath obſerved, that no ſtate can be free in which the laws of treaſon are not moſt accurately defined in every point, becauſe upon them the very exiſtence of liberty depends. Now in our happy and glorious conſtitution, the laws of treaſon are quite inaccurate. Indeed, whoever will examine our conſtitution and laws together, will pronounce both to be very imperfect; and if we are not ſlaves the cauſe is in our breaſts, and hands; not in our conſtitution, nor our laws. Before our conſtitution can be called perfect, the king muſt by law reſign one half of his preſent power and patronage; which he may do without the ſlighteſt danger of an Ariſtocracy riſing on his ruins. That this was not done on the acceſſion of William III. or of George I. to the throne is an eternal diſgrace [Page 354] to the judgment of our National Councils. In the later event eſpecially, if the very title of King was given, nothing was too great to aſk, or rather to keep.

SUPPOSING the laws rendered perfect, who can afford to pay for them? Sweet laws that cannot be adminiſtered without ruining the oppreſt! It is to he hoped that in the courſe of a century or two, we ſhall have wiſdom enough to reduce the fees of courts and lawyers to one tenth of what they are now. And when reformation once begins, it precipitates; ſo that, whenever that event takes place, we may venture to propheſy, that in the courſe of a year thereafter theſe fees will be reduced to onethirtieth part of the preſent, which would yet be too high.

LET me add that Police, in particular, a word unknown to the Engliſh language, and to the Engliſh laws, is woefully deficient in this enormous metropolis. Why is not the price of meat, for inſtance, regulated as that of bread? Our wiſe ſenators are ſo much occupted with game-laws, that they cannot beſtow the [Page 355] moſt trifling attention on the lives and properties of their conſtituents; when, God knows, it matters not the toſſing up of a ſtraw if there were not a bird of game in the three kingdoms, or beaſt of game, except the hunters. The Criminal Laws of Britain are much too murderous; and ſeem utterly to forget that there are puniſhments more dreadful than death even to the meaneſt mind.

SUCH are my haſty thoughts on this grand ſubject of the Progreſs of Knowlege. Senſible of their defects, I even ſubmit them with anxiety to the judgment of your affectionate friendſhip.

P. S. YOU will perhaps think a former aſſertion of this Letter extravagant; namely, that the ſtudy of Burnet's Hiſtory is connected with the welfare of our ſtate. But it only means that the true and old Whig principles are eſſential to that welfare; and that if theſe prevail, Burnet will be read with admiration. As for the new Whig principles, they have done as much harm to the conſtitution as toryiſm. An old whig wiſhes a reduction of prerogative: a new whig wiſhes to extend it, if it will ſerve his faction.

[Page 356]

YOU rightly obſerve that the fewneſs of original writers is greatly owing to the unjuſt eſteem in which Imitation is held. Imitation is in fact only a decent and allowed plagiariſm. When it appears in a certain degree, it is pronounced literary theft, and juſtly held infamous: in other degrees, and in certain forms and dreſſes, it is called honourable: but in fact it only differs in the degree of diſirepute.

IMITATION I define, ſuch evident copying from a former author, in whatever language, as evinces that the imitator meaned to appropriate the merit of the thoughts, language, or other perfections, of his model to himſelf. If ſuch imitation can have any claim to praiſe, it muſt ariſe from the originality of the copy, if I may uſe an expreſſion that ſounds a little Boeotian. When the copy is inferior to the original, neglect is certainly its proper reward: if ſuperior, it merits no praiſe, for facile eſt inventis addere, it is an caſy matter to improve on the inventions of others.

[Page 357] OUR idea of Imitation muſt not however be extended too far; elſe we ſhall pronounce every author, who writes a poem in Twenty-Four Books, an imitator of Homer. It is only imitation of general deſign in its diſtinct diviſions of epiſodes, &c. imitation of incidents, of characters, of ſentiments, images, ſtyle, manner, that is properly Imitation. For inſtance,

MILTON writes an epic poem as Homer hath done; for I call Milton's Paradiſe Loſt an epic poem in every ſenſe of the word: critics, who ſcruple this appellation, ſeem to forget that epic only means narrative; and may, with great juſtice, be applied to a Tale of Fontaine, tho generally aſcribed to narrative poems of the higheſt order, by way of excellence. I ſay Milton writes an epic poem as Homer hath done; but wherein doth he imitate Homer? In not one point. The general plan of his poem, his incidents, &c. are totally different from thoſe of Homer, or any other writer. Milton is therefore an original poet.

VIRGIL writes an epic poem likewiſe as Homer hath done: wherein doth he imitate [Page 358] Homer? In every thing. He hath nothing of his own: all is ſtolen; ſtolen without acknowlegement. It follows, that he is an infamous plagiary.

YET the world hath not dared ſo to arraign him. The enormity of his crime precluded due puniſhment. You know what the pirate ſaid to ſome great conqueror, that the victor, becauſe he ſlaughtered whole nations, and plundered whole empires, was called a hero; whereas he, who only killed a few perſons, and rifled a paltry treaſure, was called a thief, So it hath fared with Virgil.

MR. GIBBON ſomewhere expreſſes a ſurprize that no Greek writer whatever, tho many are poſterior to Virgil, ever thought him worth mention. The cauſe is evident. The Greeks looked upon him as a paltry tranſlator; and, what is worſt of all, an epitomizing tranſlator, of their own immortal poet. Had a Greek mentioned him, it muſt have been with utter ſcorn, as we would mention any writer who ſhould publiſh in French the Paradiſe Loſt, and the Paradiſe Regained, frittered down into [Page 359] a foppiſh production in ſix books; and deſire the world to look upon it as an epic poem.

I HAVE ſaid that an imitation may be original; and that in this point only the very minute merit of imitation conſiſts. Mr. Pope's Imitations of Horace are original and happy. Boileau's poor copies, which he hath had the impudence to call Satires, are conſtrained and feeble: he has gone behind the ancients like a menial; not like a king, with his attendants before him.

ALL kinds of imitation, and all imitations whatever, ſink into that claſs of poetry which we read to ladies at a tea-table; and then give to the ſervant, that he may not burn his hands in carrying off the tea-urn. No man of real genius can be an imitator, ſuppoſing that he made the attempt: originality is coeſſential with genius, as Milton tells us that light is coeternal with the deity.

YET with us there is likewiſe a god of theft, as Lucian phraſes it [Note: [...].]; and we ſeem to venerate Lucian. in cum qui dixit, Prometheus es in verbis. [Page 360] imitations as much as originals; goods got by theft, as much as thoſe honeſtly acquired: nay we beſtow upon the thief of ſublime inventions the deification only due to the firſt inventor.

WE all know that painters of little or no merit have yet made ſuch perfect copies of the works of the greateſt maſters, that even, in ſome caſes, theſe maſters themſelves could not diſtinguiſh them from their own productions. Yet the copiers acquired no reputation from thoſe imitations. Why ſhould it be otherewiſe in poetry? Imitations of the very verbage and manner of Chaucer, Spenſer, Milton, we ſee daily performed by writers of ſlender talents; and ſuch imitations I will venture to pronounce the eaſieſt of literary labours, and in no reſpect more entitled to praiſe than copies of paintings.

SPEAKING of imitation in painting, I cannot help adding a remark on the complete folly of inſtituting Academies of Painting, or any other art, or ſcience; that is, Schools of Imitation. Did ever any one good painter ariſe from an academy? Never; not even one of the ſlighteſt reputation. The moment the French [Page 361] academy was inſtituted, painting ceaſed in that country. No more Claudes or Pouſſins aroſe. It was reſerved for the ideotic counſels of this Gothic reign to cruſh all hopes of the progreſs of painting at once, by founding an academy. In our academy, as in others, all imitate, none invent: the art is of courſe at a ſtand, ſoon to fall, if other means do not foſter it.

I KNOW of no ſervice which our Royal Academy doth, but to ſpoil many good taylors, by converting them into artiſts, as they call themſelves. It is to be hoped ſome future prince will juſt have ſenſe enough to diſſolve this lump of regal ſolly; and to ſay to art and ſcience, "Be free." We already ſee its effects in the odd productions of its members. In the hall of the Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manuſactures and Commerce, John Street, Adelphi, is now expoſed to public view ſuch a ſeries of daubings by a Royal Academician, nay Profeſſor of Painting to the Royal Academy, as would, both for deſign and execution, have diſgraced Lapland in the Twelfth century. Had they appeared on ſign poſts, they would only have arraigned the taſte of the innholders; but [Page 362] as the painter is ſo impudent as to hold them out as a national work, the moſt public contempt and cenſure is due to them. What muſt foreigners think of us, upon reading the puffs, and ſeeing the productions? Poſterity! Poſterity! indeed we are not quite ſo barbarous as thou wilt take us to be, ſhould theſe Academical Exerciſes reach thy notice! This artiſt, I am informed, hath written "A Treatiſe on Painting," in which he is always quoting many claſſics. God help us! A man muſt bring a claſſic ſenſe to the claſſics, elſe their high ideas will confound, and not enlighten.

TO young writers eſpecially, Imitation cannot be held out in too juſt, in too contemptible, a light. They ought even to be told that there is more applauſe due to a bad original, than to the beſt of copies. By theſe means they will at leaſs endeavour to be original; and this they cannot accompliſh without trying to think for themſelves, and to dig diamonds from the mines of invention by their own labour. A point of the utmoſt conſequence to every kind of ſcience; for, were the clouds, which Imitation and Prejudice raiſe in the mind, diſperſed, knowlege of [Page 363] every denomination would diffuſe its benignant light with redoubled rapidity.

TO very young writers, I allow, Imitation is proper as a taſk; but it ought only to be regarded as ſuch, and abandoned with other academical occupations. Even this can only be permitted from the conſideration that many minds are like wildings, and will neither bear flowers nor fruit till they are grafted.

POST-SCRIPT.

SINCE my Letter On Improving the Language, it has occurred to me, from the hints of ſome very learned and ingenious men who much approve of the other ideas, that the final th, however ſoft to an Engliſh ear, cannot be pronounced by foreigners at all, and is therefore by no means laudable. The final h had better be always omitted, except in interjections, as Ah! Oh! and its the word breath, where it is very expreſſive. Subſtantives in th ſhould take the é, omitting the h; as truté, faité, &c. in verbs, &c. both the t and h ought [Page 364] commonly to be cut off; or elſe altered according to the genius of the language. By giving plurals in a, and a few ſubſtitutions of z, perhaps a ſufficient number of the letter s will be thrown out, and the preſent tenſe of verbs may very well retain that letter. Certain it is that were we to give the th, and the ſtill worſe eth, (begineth, &c.) the language would only be rendered more barbarous and horrible, nothing being ſo feeble and uncouth as that termination eth. The h is extremely frequent in our tongue, and ought to be omitted whenever it can. Even the final ſh had far better be altered.

I FORGOT to mention that the plural in a is perfectly Anglo-Saxon, and homogeneous to our language, there being two declenſions in a out of the ſix declenſions of ſubſtantives in the Anglo-Saxon Grammar drawn from Hickes. The inſtances are ƿiln, ancilla, ƿilna, ancillae; and ſunu, filius, ſuna, filii. So that you ſee both male and female ſubſtantives admitted of it originally; and the neuter may certainly take it with at leaſt equal propriety.

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I GRANT you that Mr. Gray's cenſure of David Hume is the moſt exceptionable part of his Letters; but it is very vindicable, being written in confidence to a friend; and with no intention that the public ſhould ſee it. His trite application of the remark, that muddy rivers ſeem deep, ſhews that it was written in an unlucky moment, when thought is abſent; and perhaps in the fluſter of evening wine: which laſt is indeed the only apology that can be made for the remainder of the ſtricture. No writer can be more clear and manly than Hume; I mean as to his ſenſe; nay, what is wonderful, his ſtyle is always eaſily intelligible, tho full of ſoleciſms and every ſpecies of barbarity: his gaiety is always that of an innocent and truly wiſe man. His Hiſtory of England, nay his Eſſays, diſplay talents very far ſuperior to any that Gray hath ever ſhewn. Mr. Hume might have ruled a ſtate: Gray's utmoſt views would only have ruled a college. [Page 366] Hume's reputation in France was only the echo of his fame in England. Mr. Gray ſhewed himſelf leſs than a child when he called Hume one. Such mad calumnies recoil upon their author's judgment, and cruſh it to nothing. Yet all this cenſure lights upon the Editor; for Gray would have called upon mountains to cover his ſhame, if he had ſeen his name publicly branded with throwing dirt from Billingſgate upon a cotemporary lord of fame, becauſe his envy ſaw that he was richer dreſt, and of far higher rank than himſelf.

THE Hiſtory of Mr. Hume is indeed very far from being laudable. It is a mere apology for prerogative from beginning to end: and, tho the beſt apology which. hath been offered, is yet very weak; which ſhews the cauſe muſt be deſperate when even ſo great an advocate utterly fails in its defence. At the ſame time that his political principles led him to exalt the prerogative, his philoſophic opinions forced him to depreſs the church: while every body knows that no church, no king. Hence his work is one chaos of heterogeneous axioms, and miſrepreſented events. His opinions even combated [Page 367] his natural ſenſibility; for I remember that, in narrating ſome of the moſt flagitious acts of cruelty of the bleſſed reign of Charles I. or II. he diſplays due ſenſe of the atrocity of ſuch calm deeds of tyranny, as make the frenzies of Nero or Domitian mere jeſts: but when he hath got thro them, and his opinion begins to reſume cooler operation, he gravely begins his next paragraph thus: ‘Theſe acts of ſeverity (if they can be called ſuch).’

WHAT was the reaſon, do you think, that could induce a writer of ſuch talents to proſtitute them ſo baſely? that could induce ſuch a philoſopher to ſuppoſe that millions of human beings were to hold their life and happineſs at the nod of one of them: of a thing called a king; perhaps in corporeal and in mental powers leſs than the leaſt of his ſubjects?

THIS is eaſily accounted for. Hume was poor, and wiſhed to be rich. The king is the ſureſt fountain of wealth: and to flatter him is the path to preferment, and to opulence. Hence public ſpirit is almoſt unknown in monarchies; for one man centers in himſelf the wealth and [Page 368] praiſe of his ſubjects. Hume tells us himſelf, Chap. LX. 1651. ‘Though the eſtabliſhed government was but the mere ſhadow, of a commonwealth, yet was it beginning by proper arts to encourage that public ſpirit, which no other ſpecies of civil polity is ever able fully to inſpire.’ Hear him! Hear him! Then your Hiſtory Mr. Hume wiſhes to extinguiſh PUBLIC SPIRIT, that is, to deſtroy the moſt laudable principle of ſociety.

I KNOW not how it is that the whole late Scotiſh writers of any eminence have been on the tyrannic ſide, if we except Dr. Stuart, a man of real abilities, but ſtrangely miſapplied in pulling down thoſe of others. Yet preſbytery, the religion of that country, hath always been conſidered as neceſſarily connected with whig principles; and the common people of Scotland are almoſt univerſally whigs. The peers are however almoſt all tories; owing to the feudal ſpirit of tyranny and ſlavery not being wholly extinguiſhed in that kingdom till 1747, when heretable juriſdictions were aboliſhed. The court can only judge of Scotland by the nobility; the fathers of whom having [Page 369] been tyrants to ſlaves, the ſons are willing to be ſlaves to tyrants; for ſuch is the ſpirit of the feudal ſyſtem: a later emancipation from which hath thrown Scotland a whole century behind England in point of civil liberty. Now the writers, in general, naturally adapt their principles to thoſe of their ſuperiors, and the court, unto whom they look for their reward.

HENCE in our times Junius, Wilkes, Churchill, and other men of talents, have judged of that ancient and warlike kingdom very unjuſtly. A Scot is, with them, ſynonymous with a tory, a ſlave. Nothing can be more oppoſite to the ſpirit of the nation; however it may apply to the noble ſcum on the top, or the dregs of mercenary writers at the bottom. But the nation is full of generous liquor, and hath nothing to do either with its ſcum, or its dregs; which are always worſt, when the liquor is beſt. Indeed Churchill's works have paſſed thro more editions, and are more read, in Scotland, than here; which ſhews that the love of that country for liberty is ſuperior even to the moſt inveterate national prejudices.

[Page 370] BY a neceſſary chain, Scotiſh tories and Jacobites are now court favorites, ‘They taſte the ſweets of this Saturnian reign. Epiſtle to Sir W. Chambers. ’ while the real nation, and its real intereſts, are neglected and deſpiſed. It is certainly fortunate that Scotland hath not been free above forty years, as to that circumſtance we are indebted for its happy quiet, at a time when every province of the Britiſh empire evinces, in commotion, or in rebellion, the odious and moſt deplorable, but natural and unavoidable effects of thoſe tory principles of government which have prevailed thro this pitiful and miſerable reign, and have made it one blot in the Britiſh Annals.

IT is no leſs wonderful than true, that, ever ſince the name of Whig hath been known, the nation hath been indebted for all its glorious events to men of that deſcription; and for its miſeries to the Tories. Indeed, my friend, if any one will ſhew me that a tory miniſtry ever did the leaſt good to this country, or even did not do it great injury, I ſhall turn tory inſtantly: but if, from the reign of James I. to this hour, tory miniſters have, by every meaſure, [Page 371] brought calamity and diſgrace on their country, then muſt every Briton view ſuch principles as the ſeeds of death in our conſtitution; and on thoſe who profeſs them, and foſter them in the chief magiſtrate, as deſerving of the execration of every good man, and in fact of the higheſt puniſhment which the laws of ſociety can ordain for thoſe who meditate the utter perdition of the community.

A KING of Great Britain who knows that, by the preſent conſtitution, he is only elective chief magiſtrate of the country, and will comply with his ſtation (it is a glorious one!), hath it in his power to appropriate to himſelf all the fame riſing from the public ſpirit of the greateſt of modern nations. But if he wiſhes to extend his prerogative, that is, to extinguiſh that public ſpirit, he is a ſuicide, and the jury of poſterity will bring it in lunacy. For he is the enemy of his own power, not to ſay of his own exiſtence: the power of an Engliſh king being directly oppoſite to his prerogative; for his power is drawn only from the confidence of the nation, which his prerogative will infallibly deſtroy, if diſplayed, and not kept, as a [Page 372] ſword in the ſcabbard, never to be drawn by a brave man but upon moſt urgent occaſion. If he makes himſelf little, he will be great indeed! but if he bites the curb, which our fathers have put in his mouth, it is of ſteel, and he will only ſpoil his teeth. If he wiſhes to be an ox, he will feel himſelf only the frog in the fable.

YOU will know that I mean ſtill leſs to defend the philoſophic tenets of David Hume; tho he be a great and elegant writer of philoſophy. But I deteſt the principles of any man who writes popularly againſt the religion of his country, let it be what it will, if it does not injure political freedom, the firſt of human bleſſings. I ſay popularly, becauſe if treated in an high and abſtract, or in a poetical ſtyle, as Lucretius hath done, it will not injure the vulgar faith, but only afford ſpeculation to the learned. Religion is the only bond of ſociety for the mob; and they ought not even to ſuſpect that their ſuperiors deſpiſe it; as they will, in that caſe, from their ignorance of moral theory, imagine that their ſuperiors have no laws, and conſequently that they ought to have none. Philoſophy will never do for the vulgar. [Page 373] They muſt be bound in the chains of prejudice, and ſo led thro the road of life; and not truſted to themſelves after proper information.

BESIDES, my friend, the conſolations of human life are by no means too numerous. Religion is one of the chief of theſe conſolations to thouſands of people; and among theſe to many poſſeſt of qualities ſuperior to genius, knowlege, or philoſophy; qualities that conſtitute the GOOD, the firſt order of ſociety. Shall I, with raſh and ſacrilegious hand, burſt open the temple of their happineſs, and ſteal away the palladium of their peace? Forbid it Humanity! Forbid it even Philoſophy! The philoſophy that is not benevolent is falſe and deſtructive. It is impoſſible for man to know the truth: but it is of no importance whether his felicity be founded on truth, or on deluſion.

[Page 374]

I KNOW not how an opinion hath been propagated among ſeveral relaters of the life of Torquato Taſſo, which hath no foundation in fact; it is that Taſſo's madneſs originated from his preſumptuous and diſappointed love for Leonora da Eſte, ſiſter of Duke Alfonſo of Ferrara. The fact is, his madneſs aroſe from the various troubles of a dependant and perplexed life, operating with unceaſing violence upon a melancholy temperament, and a morbid tenderneſs of feeling. But, before we trace it, let us diſcuſs this ſame tale of Leonora. The materials for this diſcuſſion ſhall be drawn from the only authentic life of Taſſo, that written by his friend Giovanni Battiſta Manſo, lord of Biſaccio and Pianca. This long and curious narrative is ſo extremely rare, that it is no wonder latter biographers only ſpeak of it from report. The edition uſed is that of Venice 1621, 12mo. 372 pages.

[Page 375] MANSO tells that there were three ladies of the name of Leonora at Ferrara; all of whom are celebrated by his friend in different ſonnets, &c. and that it is impoſſible to ſay which of them ſtood higheſt in his affections, or even if any of them was miſtreſs of his heart. Theſe were the princeſs Leonora above-mentioned; Leonora Counteſs of San Vitale; and Leonora one of the maids of honour to the princeſs. Manſo ſeems to incline to think the latter was the lady really beloved by Taſſo; which indeed is ſo probable, that one may ſafely pronounce it the truth.

THE beginning of Taſſo's madneſs, is dated by Manſo about the thirty-ſecond year of his age, two years after publiſhing the immortal Geruſalemme; when he was tyrannically confined by order of Duke Alfonſo, on pretence that he wiſhed no whim of Taſſo ſhould deprive his court of ſo great a character. The violent oppoſition to his great poem, and the contempt which the invidious tried to throw upon it, are put by his biographer as one great cauſe of his alienation of mind. The increaſe of it he marks as owing to theſe cauſes:
  • 1. The [Page 376] falſehood of a friend, who publiſhed, what was confided to him as an inviolable ſecret, the amori of Taſſo.
  • 2. The baſe ſuſpicions raiſed againſt him by his enemies.
  • 3. His ſeveral confinements.
  • 4. The loſs of the Duke his patron's favour.
  • 5. Let me add, as the ſtrongeſt cauſe of all, his being ſo heated at the bad reception of the Geruſalemme, a reception in all ages given to works ſurpaſſing common expectation, as to re-write that Poem under the title of La Geruſalemme Conquiſtata; nay to compoſe many books of a third alteration to be like a medium between the two former.
Such long compoſitions, written with heat and rancour, muſt certainly have impaired the moſt exuberant brain; and carried off the whole ſpirits of the mind till lees alone were left.

IT may not be incurious to examine the nature of a ſhock that could lay ſo vaſt a ſoul in ruins. The enquiry will reſemble that of the philoſopher who viſits a delicious country deſolated by an earthquake. Calabria, the native realm of Taſſo, now preſents too lively an image of his ſituation in his latter days: All that is grand, all that is beautiful, mingled in horrible confuſion!

[Page 377] THE qualities of Taſſo's diſeaſe are deſcribed by Manſo to have been theſe:
  • 1. MELANCHOLY. This ſeems to have been inherited from his father. There is a pleaſing melancholy; which is always the concomitant of genius, and which whoever hath not felt, ‘He need not wooe the Muſe: he is her ſcorn.’ But Taſſo's melancholy was a torment to him. ‘I muſt always be an object of your compaſſion,’ ſays he in a letter to Mauritio Cataneo, ‘becauſe the melancholy which torments me is infinite; and the worſt I could ſay of it would exceed all belief, and yet would not be ſo bad as the truth.’
  • 2. DELIRIUM owing to hypocondriac cauſes; which increaſed to
  • 3. MADNESS; accompanied with a belief of his being
  • 4. UNDER the influence of witchcraft; and
  • 5. ATTENDED by an apparition.
Such are Manſo's diviſions, which cannot be called very proper. On the two laſt he gives us ſome curious details, which may be worth [Page 378] taking brief notice of. Taſſo ſpeaks thus of his enchantment, and ſuppoſed ſpiritual attendant, folletto, in a letter to Mauritio Cataneo: ‘You muſt know that I was bewitched, and have never been cured; and perhaps have more need of an exorciſt than of a phyſician; becauſe my diſeaſe proceeds from magical art. I would likewiſe write a few words reſpecting my daemon: the raſcal hath lately robbed me of many crown pieces; I know not the amount, as I am by no means a miſer in reckoning my money, but I dare ſay they amount to twenty. He hath likewiſe turned all my books topſy-turvy; opened my cheſts; robbed me of my keys, which I could not keep from him. I am at all times unhappy, but eſpecially in the night. I know not whether my diſeaſe proceeds from frenzy, or not.’ This was written when he was confined at St. Ann's; and, after his deliverance from confinement, he ſtill writes thus to the ſame Cataneo. ‘This day, the laſt of the year, the brother of the reverend ſignior Licino has brought me two of your letters; but one of them was taken from me, as ſoon as I had read it, and I believe the folletto muſt have carried it off, [Page 379] becauſe it is that in which he is mentioned: and this is one of the miracles which I have ſeen often in the hoſpital.’ (St. Ann's at Ferrara, where the duke ſent him, and appointed ſkilful phyſicians to attend him.) ‘Theſe things I am certain are done by ſome, magician; and I have many arguments of it; particularly of a loaf viſibly ſtolen from me one afternoon, and a plate of fruit taken from before me the other day, when a Poliſh gentleman,’ (gentil giovane Polacco,) ‘came to ſee me, worthy indeed to be witneſs of ſuch, a wonder, &c.’

MANSO afterwards tells us that Taſſo would frequently in company be quite abſtracted in his frenzy; would talk to himſelf, and laugh profuſely; and would fix his eyes keenly upon vacancy for a long time, and then ſay that he ſaw his familiar ſpirit; and deſcribe him as under the ſemblance of an angelic youth, ſuch as he paints him in his dialogue of Le Meſſagiero. Manſo particularly mentions that once Taſſo, angry at his incredulity, told him that he ſhould ſee the ſpirit with his own eyes. Accordingly next day, when they were talking [Page 380] together, and ſitting by the fire, Taſſo ſuddenly darted his eyes to a window in the room, and ſat ſo intent, that, when Manſo ſpoke to him, he returned no ſort of anſwer. At laſt he turned to him, and ſaid, ‘Behold the friendly ſpirit, who is courteouſly come to converſe with me; look at him, and perceive the truth of my words.’ Manſo immediately threw his eyes toward the ſpot; but with his keeneſt viſion could ſee nothing, but the rays of the ſun ſhining thro the window into the chamber. While he was thus ſtaring, Taſſo had entered into lofty diſcourſe with the ſpirit, as he perceived from his ſhare of the dialogue: that of the ſpirit was not audible to him; but he ſolemnly declares that the diſcourſe was ſo grand and marvellous, and contained ſuch lofty things, expreſſed in a moſt unuſual mode, that he remained in extacy, and did not dare to open his mouth ſo much as to tell Taſſo that the ſpirit was not viſible to him. In ſome time the ſpirit being gone, as Manſo could judge, Taſſo turned to him with a ſmile, and ſaid, he hoped he was now convinced. To which Manſo replied, that he had indeed heard wonderful things; but had ſeen nothing. Taſſo ſaid, ‘Perhaps you have [Page 381] heard and ſeen more than—:’ he then pauſed; and Manſo, ſeeing him in ſilent meditation, did not care to perplex him with further queſtions.

THE high things, which Manſo heard, doubtleſs originated from Taſſo's warm attachment to the Platonic philoſophy; that ſublime tiſſue of dreams and viſions. I would remark, upon the whole ſubject of this letter, that it is a woeful proof of the weakneſs of the moſt exalted mind, when it lays the rein upon the neck of imagination. A man of genius cannot take too much care to prevent his ſupernatural fancy from aſſuming any power over common life. The effect of imagination upon the mind is like that of lime upon a fruit-tree; a little buried at the root, will make it healthy and flouriſhing; but too much will totally deſtroy it.

BEFORE I conclude, it may be proper to obſerve, that the genuine Life of Taſſo by Manſo was, to the beſt of my knowledge, never publiſhed. This now quoted, which is generally called Manſo's Life of Taſſo, is in fact only [Page 382] tranſcribed from his; as we may judge from the title, which is, Vita di Torquato Taſſo ſcritta da Gio. Battiſta Manſo, &c. Al ſereniſſ. Sig. Duca d' Urb. &c. The dedication is ſigned by the publiſher Evangeliſto Deuchino; and I know not if he be not the author. The work is however equally valuable as if it had been written by Manſo; the author calling him his intimate friend, and being intruſted by him with Taſſo's MS. correſpondence. I ſuppoſe Manſo's Life was brief; it ſeems in this work to be tranſcribed with great additions.

[Page 383]

ON different late occaſions the ſubject of literary forgery hath been mentioned, without any enquiry ever being made into its propriety, or impropriety. Some wiſe writers have pronounced it, ridiculouſly enough, to partake of the crime of penal forgery; and have ſaid that he who will publiſh a new production as ancient would forge an obligation. Others with great juſtice aſſert, that nothing can be more innocent; that the fiction of aſcribing a piece to antiquity, which in fact doth not belong to it, can in no ſort be more improper than the fiction of a poem or novel; that in both the delight of the reader is the only intention.

INDEED thoſe innocents who call ſuch forgery criminal forget that they are blaſpheming their ſaviour and their religion; for the whole parables of Jeſus Chriſt, which are narrated with circumſtances that moſt ſtrongly imply them [Page 384] to be true, yet are allowed fictitious, fall under this head. Nor is there more falſehood in Marivaux's telling us that one of his novels was found in pulling down an old partition; in Mr. Walpole's account of his Caſtle of Otranto being a tranſlation from an Italian romance; in Macpherſon's Oſſian if you will; than in any of the ſacred fables, wherein ſtrict truth is ſacrificed to the pleaſure of the hearer.

PERHAPS in fact nothing can be more heroic and generous in literary affairs than a writer's aſcribing to antiquity his own production; and thus ſacrificing his own fame to give higher ſatisfaction to the public. It certainly partakes of that nobility of ſoul, which is content with its own ſuffrage; and ranks the author among thoſe who ‘Do good by ſtealth, and bluſh to find it fame.’ People of ſhallow underſtandings are always the moſt ſuſpicious of being made dupes, and are the moſt clamorous when they find they are ſo: thoſe of deeper minds are not deceived by the fiction, as to their judgment; yet their fancy admits the deceit, and receives [Page 385] higher pleaſure from it, than it poſſibly could, were no deceit uſed.

Magnanima menzogna, or quando è il vero
Si bello, che ſi poſſa a te preporre?

THERE are however certain kinds, and even certain modes, of literary forgery that may juſtly be held improper; for that is the higheſt reproach that can be applied to the worſt kinds of them, none being in the leaſt injurious to ſociety. Of the improper kind is forgery of hiſtories; as thoſe of Beroſus, and Manetho, by Annius of Viterbo; or works of inſtruction, as the book of Dominico Flocci De Magiſtratibus Romanis aſcribed to Feneſtella; and, in ſhort, of all the ſorts of writing in which truth is the object. Poetry and romance are ſacred to fiction, and it can never be puſhed too far.

Pictoribus atque Poetis
QUIDLIBET AUDENDI ſemper fuit aequa poteſtas.
Yet with one exception as to the mode: for inſtance, had Muret, when he forged the verſes aſcribed to Afranius ſo exquiſitely, ſent them to Joſeph Scaliger, not in common writing, [Page 386] but tranſcribed on vellum, and fumigated with art, ſo as to appear part of an ancient manuſcript, I doubt of its propriety; tho it would have been even in that caſe an impoſition only worthy of laughter to men of ſenſe; but to weak minds every thing is a crime.

I ſhall cloſe my letter with an applicable quotation from Mr. Addiſon upon this ſubject, to be found in No. 542 of the Spectator. 'Some,' obſerves he, ‘ſay an author is guilty of falſehood, when he talks to the public of manuſcripts which he never ſaw, or deſcribes ſcenes of action, or diſcourſe, in which he was never engaged. But theſe gentlemen would do well to conſider there is not a fable, or parable, which ever was made uſe of, that is not liable to this exception; ſince nothing, according to this notion, can be related innocently, which was not once matter of fact.’

[Page 387]

IT would doubtleſs be going too far to ſay that the Romans had no original writers; and, if you look into my former letters, you will find that I made no ſuch aſſertion.

YET their original authors are very few; and, if you pleaſe, this letter ſhall briefly recapitulate their eminent writers, and diſtinguiſh thoſe that may juſtly receive the high diſtinction of Original. An order nearly chronological ſhall be followed, and they only mentioned whoſe works have reached us.

PLAUTUS, a poet too much neglected, his works having infinitely more merit than thoſe of Terence, is however not original, except perhaps in one or two plays.

TERENCE need not be mentioned, his plays being mere tranſlations. Had only one of thoſe been preſerved, his fame would have [Page 388] ſtood ſix degrees higher, according to the number of his dramas; the perfect ſimilarity of which evinces that he was poſſeſt of not one ſpeck of genius, even as a tranſlator.

LUCRETIUS was not altogether original, there being Greek Philoſophic poems of the ſame kind by Empedocles, and others, which are loſt: but, as we know not that he took any thing from them, as his epiſodes in particular, and his whole poem in general, breathe a bold ſpirit of apparent originality, put him down in the middle rank, between Originals and Imitators.

CICERO, nor Caeſar, cannot be called original in any view.

SALLUST is an evident imitator of Thucydides, and Livy of Herodotus; yet they are both ſuperior to their originals. Still they are imitators.

VIRGIL is the moſt pitiful imitator of the whole Roman writers, as was ſhewn on a former occaſion.

[Page 389] CATULLUS appears to me not original, the hendecaſyllabi, his favorite vehicle, being Grecian. Two or three of his pieces are known to be tranſlations without acknowlegement; a ſtrong proof againſt the reſt.

TIBULLUS appears to have the firſt claim to originality of perhaps all the Roman writers. Callimachus and Philetas wrote Elegies; but they were not amatory, nor plaintive. Athenaeus tells us, that Callimachus wrote an Elegy on a victory: and I learn from no ancient that any one of them was on the ſubject of love. His hymns, which have reached us, ſay little for his talents. The elegies of Philetas are ſometimes quoted by obſcure ancient writers, but from theſe quotations we judge that their ſubjects were remote from thoſe of Tibullus. Upon the whole, I ſet down this exquiſite poet as original.

PROPERTIUS is not; becauſe Tibullus wrote before him. He is very inferior to Tibullus in every reſpect; and is in fact a mere pedant in love. I muſt remark on the beginning of the Firſt Elegy of his Third Book, [Page 390]

Callimachi manes, et Coi ſacra Philetae,
In veſtrum, quaeſo, me ſinite ire nemus:
Primus ego ingredior, puro de fonte ſacerdos,
Itala per Graios orgia ferre choros.
that the reference to Callimachus and Philetas only points at the elegiac ſtanza uſed by them, not at the ſubject: and that we need not wonder at the boaſt in the laſt couplet, when we reflect that Virgil hath the impudence to ſay the ſame; tho twenty Latin poets had ſtolen from the Greeks before he was born.

I DOUBT much if Horace be original in any of his odes, but they are his worſt work, for he is certainly a very middling lyric poet: we muſt eſtimate him by his chief works, his Satires, and his Epiſtles: and in them, eſpecially in the laſt, heavens! what an original, what an exquiſite writer! In the Satires he is happy, in the Epiſtles ſuperlatively ſo. Tha [...] to the Piſos, when properly underſtood, which we of this age are now happily enabled to do from Mr. Colman's moſt ingenious and acut [...] tranſlation and commentary, is full of as much good ſenſe, and lucid order, as the epiſtolar plan can require. By the way let me add, from [Page 391] Mr. Colman's juſt idea of this epiſtle, that the magiſterial rule, of not making a drama ſhorter or longer than five acts, ſeems to be addreſſed to him of the younger Piſos who had written a play, and who had probably extended it beyond that number, as Sophocles hath ſometimes done. Horace, as an argument to perſuade him to ſuppreſs his piece, which is the intention of his epiſtle, fixes it as an abſolute rule, tho indeed from no authority, that no drama ſhould exceed, or fall ſhort of, five acts. This rule, would he ſay, you have not complied with; therefore your piece is unfit for public view.

TO return: from his grand works of the Satires and Epiſtles, put Horace as an original writer.

OVID was doubtleſs original in his Metamorphoſes, and Faſti; but his originality is futile, and of no value.

CELSUS hath high merit in every view; and may, I believe, be even entitled to the praiſe of originality upon the whole. A claſſic edition [Page 392] of him is much wanted. The late Dr. Briſbane of Middleſex Hoſpital, author of The Anatomy of Painting, had made large MS. collections with this view; which I happened to purchaſe of a bookſeller, and, if you know any man of learning who would uſe them with their author's intention, they ſhould be at his ſervice.

TO Phaedrus the merit of being original cannot be denied. As a Fabuliſt, he is preferable to every writer, not excepting Fontaine himſelf. Terſe, polite, facetious, moſt elegantly brief, he doth honour even to the age of Auguſtus. His language in ſimple beauty exceeds that of Terence; and the language of Terence is his ſole merit; that of Phaedrus is not his merit, but his dreſs. The beſt fables are I. 1. III. 1.8.9. IV. 19.21.: the 17th of Book IV. is a diſgrace to his work, as well as ſome others. Ubi plura nitent, &c. Where is the human work that is perfect?

JUVENAL and Perſius have each an original ſtyle in their Satires; their thoughts are alſo original. It would be mere cavil then to deny their praiſe of originality. The firſt is a writer [Page 393] of amazing moral ſublimity. His Satires, I ſuſpect, are ſuperior to thoſe of Horace, if ſublimity be a quality of writing ſuperior to grace, as, for my own part, I have no doubt but it is. The obſcurity of Perſius throws him quite out of the rank of good writers.

LUCAN is original, but it is the originality of Ovid; an originality of no price. His grand and Stoic diction deſerves, however, much praiſe; and, even conſidered as a poet, I agree with Heinſius and Corneille, that he is infinitely ſuperior to Virgil.

THE Natural Hiſtory of Pliny is an original of vaſt deſign, and maſterly execution.

QUINTILIAN is the only ſenſible critic of antiquity, the only one who knew method or diſtinction; but he cannot be called original.

STATIUS, Martial, Valerius Flaccus, Silius Italicus, have no claim to originality.

TO Tacitus let us bend the knee as the greateſt of the original Roman writers, as the firſt hiſtorian who wrote with philoſophy for his [Page 394] guide; as one whoſe judgment and talents were infinite, and ſhall never be rivalled. I am not unaware that Milton, in his Familiar Letters, calls Saluſt the very firſt of all hiſtorians, and Tacitus his imitator. Tho I revere Milton, I revere the truth more, and think that Saluſt imitates Thucydides, and Tacitus imitates none. Saluſt deals merely in general reflections; Tacitus in deep and political knowlege.

BOETIUS, the laſt Roman writer, has a fair claim to originality, and that not of the meaneſt kind.

SUCH is the liſt of the more eminent Latin writers. Among them we have found only Eight Original, namely, TIBULLUS, HORACE, CELSUS, PHAEDRUS, JUVENAL, PLINY the Elder, TACITUS, BOETIUS; and I ſuppoſe, if weighed in the ſcales of Critical Juſtice, their various powers of genius would rank them in this order.

  • I. TACITUS, as a profound hiſtorian. None having ariſen before, or ſince, his genius muſt neceſſarily be of wonderful rarity and value.
  • [Page 395] II. TIBULLUS, as the firſt writer of Elegy in the world.
  • III. JUVENAL. A ſatyric writer of the ſublime or firſt claſs. As ſatire is an inferior province of poetry to elegy, he ſtands after Tibullus; but, as the ſublime is ſuperior to the elegant, he precedes
  • IV. HORACE.
  • V. PLINY the Elder.
  • VI. CELSUS.
  • VII. PHAEDRUS.
  • VIII. BOETIUS.
[Page 396]

THE diſtinction between learning and reading is very juſt. A man may read all the books ever ſent into the world, were it poſſible, and yet have no title to the appellation of learned. A man of true learning, by the digeſtion of a ſtrong mind, converts all literary food into wholſome nouriſhment; whereas, when the receptacle is diſordered, or feeble, the more it is crammed the worſe. Such is Milton's idea:

But knowlege is as food, and needs no leſs
Her temperance over appetite, to know
In meaſure what the mind may well contain:
Oppreſſes elſe with ſurfeit; and ſoons turns
Wiſdom to folly, as nouriſhment to wind.
For a long time after the revival of learning it was confounded with reading. An author could not call ſnow white, without a long quotation from Ariſtotle in the margin. This plan having fallen into juſt contempt, we have now adopted the other extreme. Voltaire, an [Page 397] ape who looks big by getting upon the ſhoulders of giants, after dirtying them all over in getting up, writes hiſtory without ever quoting his authorities; and tells us anecdotes as ancient, which are not to be found in any ancient author in print; yet he quotes no MS. Shall we believe him? No. They are the offspring of his own brain. Even for apparent facts he produces no authority; yet hiſtory cannot be too well authenticated. As he made his poetry hiſtory, ſo he hath made his hiſtory poetry; he is an hiſtorical poet, and a poetical hiſtorian. This is an inſtance that there are works in which it is abſolutely neceſſary to ſhew one's learning by quotations, and not by the eſſence of the diſcourſe.

FOR a man's writing on learned ſubjects with no diſplay of erudition, we can only account by pronouncing him ignorant. The more a man hath read upon any ſubject, he will doubtleſs write the better; ſuppoſing him a man of any capacity. Is not a rich man better qualified to furniſh a banquet that will delight every palate, than one whoſe poverty fruſtrates his intention?

[Page 398] NONE I confeſs are ſo fond of ſhewing their learning as thoſe who have little of it. Parſon Adams, you remember, when ſhewing his half guinea, all he had, ſays he doth it not from oſtentation of riches. Have you never heard a man quote Horace in company, and then, with many apologies for being a man of learning, tranſlate the paſſage in ſuch a manner as to evince that he had not even the rudiments of erudition? Swift hath well obſerved that what a man wants in ſenſe is ſupplied in vanity. The obſervation is equally juſt when applied to learning; for ſound learning may be defined to be an appropriation of the ſenſe of others.

SUETONIUS, in his books De Illuſtribus Grammaticis, tells us that Cornelius Nepos to whom the work of Victor De viris Illuſtribus, read in ſchools in ſpite of its bad Latin, is aſcribed, wrote a treatiſe De diſcrimine literati et eruditi. And one Poiret hath written a book De eruditione ſolida et falſa. I have not read it, but the title is a good one. Solid ſcience I think may be defined, That which is uſeful to man, either individually or ſocially. This definition includes elegant learning, for what pleaſes a man [Page 399] is highly uſeful to him. The diſpute whether poetry, for inſtance, is meant to be uſeful or pleaſing, is idle. What is pleaſing is uſeful. Poetry is only uſeful by amuſing. The time is paſt when it preſerved laws, and gave ſocial manners to ſavage nations. The harp of Orpheus ſounds no more. This unexpected metaphor brings to my mind a droll anecdote, told by Lucian, in his treatiſe Againſt an ignorant man who bought a number of books, which I ſhall beg leave to lay before you, as a lively picture of the futility of any ſcience when canvaſſed by inadequate powers of mind.

WHEN the Thracian Bacchanals tore Orpheus to pieces, they ſay that his harp was thrown into the river Hebrus with his bleeding head upon it. While the head ſung a lamentable elegy on the fate of its late proprietor, the harp, touched by the wind, accompanied it with a ſolemn ſtrain, till ſwimming down the Egean ſea the mournful concert arrived at Leſbos. The Leſbians, taking them up, buried the head in the ſpot where, in Lucian's time, ſtood the temple of Bacchus; and hung up the lyre in the Temple of Apollo. [Page 400] Neanthus, the ſon of Pittacus the tyrant, who had heard the wonderful qualities of this harp, that it tamed wild beaſts, and moved even trees and rocks, and that, ſince the time of Orpheus, it had never been touched, had a violent deſire to try its effects. With this view he bribed the prieſt, who had it in keeping, to give it to him, and hang up one quite ſimilar in its place. Neanthus wifely thought it was not proper to uſe it by day, nor in the city, leſt he ſhould bring the houſes about his ears, but, hiding it under his robe, went by night to try it in the environs. Being quite ignorant of muſic, he began ſcraping upon it at a ſtrange rate, but with no ſmall pride and ſatisfaction, as deeming himſelf the worthy heir of the muſic of Orpheus. The town dogs who, I ſuppoſe, were all turned looſe into the ſtreets at night, as is now the cuſtom in Turkey, came to the ſound in crouds. Neanthus in tranſport imagined, now the beaſts had come, the other effects would follow, and looked ſharp around to ſee if a rock and a tree were coming toward him dancing a minuet. Poor man! he was wofully deceived! The dogs had only come, thinking the ſtrange noiſe proceeded [Page 401] from a wolf, or a wild hog; and enraged by the horrid din tore its unfortunate author to pieces.

TO return, for I am wandering like Montaigne, tho with a juſter title to wander; there is no doubt but elegant literature forms a great branch of true learning, being in fact nearly as uſeful to man as the moſt ſolid parts of it; for poetry may be regarded as of almoſt equal utility with philoſophy. The one amuſes life, and diverts care by that ſweet pliability of man's ſpirit which Sterne ſpeaks of; the other inſtructs us to leſſen our care. The effect is almoſt the ſame.

USEFUL learning may often be diſtinguiſhed from falſe by the congenial delight, which the firſt affords to the human mind. Nature hath exquiſitely contrived that the true pleaſure and the intereſt of man ſhould walk hand in hand, as ſhe covers the fruit with the flower. To this purpoſe I muſt again beg leave to quote Lucian, for an obſervation as extenſive as it is beautiful. In his excellent work, On writing hiſtory, he tells us that—In the propriety of [Page 402] any thing lies its greateſt beauty. He is ſpeaking of falſe ornaments: but take his own words, for they ſhould be written with letters of gold in the temple of Criticiſm. [...]. This ſentiment may likewiſe be applied to pleaſure, and utility. Nature having ſeldom ſeparated them; and having in particular ſprinkled the paths of falſe ſcience with thorns, and thoſe of the true with roſes.

THE inveterate antipathy of ignorance to ſcience, and of thoſe poſſeſt of falſe learning to thoſe inheriting the true, is well known; and is eaſily accounted for by the analogical averſion of owls, bats, and other nocturnal monſters, to the light of the ſun. You cannot imagine how eaſy it is for a blockhead to ſneer at erudition. It is ſometimes very diverting to ſee ingenious and profound arguments, detailed by a man of learning upon any point turned againſt him, in high triumph, by dunces, who could never have thought of thoſe arguments had not they been digged from the mines o [...] ſcience with great labour, and preſented to them forged into Weapons.

[Page 403] TRUE ſcience we have defined to be that which is uſeful to man; it follows, that falſe ſcience is that which is uſeleſs to him. To this laſt kind many more branches of what is called knowlege may be referred, than is generally imagined: but to point them out, without adducing reaſons for claſſing them under falſe ſcience, were unjuſt and abſurd; and the production of reaſons would form a treatiſe, and not a letter.

AS I began with a quotation from Milton, ſo I ſhall cloſe with another; Ut pes et caput uni Reddantur formoe.

Who reads

Inceſſantly, and to his reading brings not
A ſpirit and judgment equal or ſuperior;
(And what he brings what need he elſewhere ſeek?)
Uncertain and unſettled ſtill remains;
Deep verſt in books, and ſhallow in himſelf;
Crude or intoxicate, collecting toys,
And trifles, (for choice matters,) worth a ſpunge;
As children gathering pebles on the ſhore.

[Page 404]

WHEN I lately gave you my thoughts upon the Advancement of Learning ſince the time of Lord Bacon, I believe I did not ſpeak of Moral Philoſophy and Social Science, at ſo great length, as the vaſt importance of thoſe, the grandeſt parts of knowlege, would require. The reaſon was that my Letter had, before I came to theſe points, exceeded all bounds; and I was willing to make all the haſte to a concluſion, which I decently could. But as I look upon theſe two articles as forming the very eſſence of human wiſdom; and to be of themſelves more weighty than all its other branches put together, I now requeſt your permiſſion to preſent you with a few thoughts upon them; expecting, as uſual, to be favoured with yours in return, that by the colliſion of our thoughts, in this other ſpecies of converſation, the flame of truth may be ſtruck out.

[Page 405] MORAL Philoſophy conſiders man as an individual principally: but as his tranſactions, as an individual, are, of neceſſity, blended with thoſe of other individuals, Social Science mingles with Moral Philoſophy by imperceptible ſhades. They had therefore better be united under the common title of THE ART OF LIFE.

HOW ſurprizing is it, my friend, what a mortifying inſtance of the blindneſs of man to his prime intereſt, that, while other arts are ſo diligently explored by many penetrating minds, this tranſcendent art, the ſovereign of all arts, THE ART OF LIFE, ſhould be almoſt, with propriety, to be regarded as an undiſcovered continent in the globe of ſcience! Yet how wide, how noble, a ſubject for didactic poetry; and for the keeneſt and moſt diligent examination of philoſophy!

LORD BACON well obſerves that ‘Life conſiſts not in novelties or ſubtleties.’ It is indeed a trite obſervation, that when a man hath ſeen one family he hath ſeen the world. It follows that THE ART OF LIFE may with the [Page 406] greateſt propriety be defined, and reduced to a ſcience.

TO do this with eaſe the middling rank, the happieſt and beſt of all, cannot be deſcribed with too minute a detail. This may be conſidered as the ſubject of the concerto, to uſe a muſical metaphor; remarks and examples from the extremes of life may, to purſue the figure, be regarded as airs.

THE ART OF LIFE can never be examined with too ſcrupulous a minuteneſs. Every trifle is important to man, himſelf a trifle, and his life a trifle. You cannot therefore expect that this Letter ſhould enter into any detail: it can only juſt hint at the chief diviſions; each of which deſerves the acute inveſtigation of a different author. An author too out of the common run of authors; an author who is a man of the world.

THE chief heads of this ART would I ſuppoſe be found to be theſe. FIRST, MAN AS AN INDIVIDUAL, conſidered with regard to
  • I. His body in
    • 1. Its ſtructure.
    • 2. The Natural Hiſtory of Man.
    • 3. The art of preventing,
    • [Page 407] 4. The art of curing, diſeaſes.
  • II. His Mind; leaving the metaphyſic part out of all queſtion: and only examining it by its palpable faculties, ſo to ſpeak, of
    • 1. Judgment and reaſon.
    • 2. Memory.
    • 3. Imagination.
SECONDLY, MAN IN SOCIETY.
  • I. Hiſtory of the Progreſs of Society.
  • II. Particular deſcription of the civilized ſtate of ſociety.
  • III. Advices for the further improvement of ſociety.
  • IV. Domeſtic ſociety conſidered in theſe ſubdiviſions: 1. Duties and affections of,
    • 1. huſband,
    • 2. Wife: children.
    • 3. of parents.
    • 4. of friends, &c.
    • 5. Rules, and moſt minute details of oeconomy and the conduct of life.
    • 6. Pleaſures and amuſements of life, with hints for their improvement.
  • V. Civil ſociety, or the art of conducting every kind of buſineſs; including the ſcience of poliſhed manners, and what is called knowlege of the world.

SUCH I imagine ought to be the general idea of this GRAND ART. Some of its branches have been already cultivated, but by no means with ſufficient care. Charron and Nettleton are perhaps the moſt important authors, whoſe works in this way deſerve any mention. The [Page 408] firſt of theſe in particular is a very valuable writer; but neither of them come up to the idea propoſed. The grand reaſon why the practical happineſs of man is ſo deſert a field of obſervation is, that he he hath never yet diſcovered that important things, as theories of worlds, &c. are trifles to him; and trifling things, as domeſtic pleaſures, &c. are to him matters of the laſt importance. The happineſs of man is compounded of a variety of minute particles of wiſdom and pleaſure: it is an exquiſite concert produced by a variety of inſtruments; moſt of them very minute in themſelves, yet of great effect upon the whole. Now no writer hath thought of laying down the art of tuning theſe ſeveral inſtruments. No: that were beneath the dignity of philoſophy! It is judged enough to lay down rules for the concert, without enquiring whether the inſtruments are in proper tune, or not. Hence, to drop the metaphor, the general titles of books on this ſubject, On Virtue and Happineſs, On Wiſdom. The writers did not know that their very titles were preſumptuous to madneſs; and that one hundredth part of their plan was far beyond the cultivation of any one [Page 409] author. This affectation of being important deſtroys the merit of all writers on this ſubject. They did not know that they would have been infinitely more important had they been leſs ſo. The ſaying of Parmenio to Philotas, ‘My ſon make thyſelf leſs,’ may with great truth be applied to all practical writers on human wiſdom; with this implied addition, ‘that thou mayeſt be greater.’ Man! Proud Man! Muſt thy pride be for ever the deſtruction of thy real knowlege, and of thy happineſs?

I HAVE dwelt ſo long upon this preliminary part, becauſe it forms the very baſis and foundation of the ART now ſpoken of. Till authors can be perſuaded to drop generalities, and minutely examine particulars; not upon theoretical, but upon experimental principles, it is in vain to expect any progreſs in this great ſcience.

MAN'S happineſs, which is the only final purpoſe of this ART, hath been already obſerved to be an aggregate compoſed of many minute parts. Perhaps nothing contributes more to it than the knowlege of economy, [Page 410] yet not one book has ever been written upon this point, tho nothing is more capable of being illuſtrated by details and examples.

THIS may ſerve as an explanation of my meaning when recommending THE ART OF LIFE to be treated by philoſophers at length, in its minute heads, not taken in groſs. I ſpeak of examples, becauſe it is a trite obſervation, that example goes further than precept: and becauſe, without examples, the ſeveral diviſions of this knowlege will be more dry, and far leſs inſtructive.

THESE examples ought always, if poſſible, to be be taken from real life; or to bear as ſtrict a reſemblance of it as poſſible: at any rate they ought to be related in the ſimpleſt manner. Indeed the whole works, upon any branch of this ſcience, ought to be written in the moſt ſimple ſtyle imaginable; being intended for the inſtruction of all ranks of ſociety.

ANY further remarks on this head I ſhall not venture upon. I cannot however omit obſerving that, in all well regulated governments, a DOMESTIC TRIBUNAL ſhould be inſtituted, [Page 411] compoſed of reſpectable fathers of families; who ſhould have power to regulate in a mild manner all ſerious diſputes between father and ſon, or the like. The vaſt power that parents have over the happineſs of their children, gives many depraved parents an unlimited tyranny, and the worſt ſpecies of it; for this always attacks the very vitals of domeſtic life, whereas tyrannic government ſeldom or never goes ſo far. Many parents make their children uſeleſs and miſerable for life, and diſinherit them in the end, for no cauſe but their own diabolical caprice. If children are diſobedient, the parents can always puniſh them; but if parents are tyrannical, there is no redreſs for their unfortunate offspring. The want of ſuch a tribunal is a diſgrace to the legal prudence of every modern country; for I think ſomething like it actually exiſted in one or two of the ſtates of antiquity.

I MUST not conclude without remarking further that Lord Bacon's own hints, upon civil ſociety and buſineſs, are very valuable, as every ſketch of ſuch a maſter is: they may be regarded with juſtice as forming a model of a ſeries of documents upon this ſubject.

[Page 412]

NOBODY will deny that in ſome few paſſages of the Geruſalemme Liberata, and thoſe very minute, Taſſo hath admitted a ſtyle a little too figurative. Yet it may with great juſtice be aſſerted that there are more blemiſhes in the Iliad, than in the Geruſalemme; and I queſtion not but there are even very near as many inſtances of exceſſive figure, and falſe decoration, or in ſhort what our critics call tinſel. But if Taſſo ſhould be found to exceed Homer in this, which I very much doubt, he hath many excuſes which Homer had not: ſuch as the Platonic, or metaphyſical, ſtyle, introduced into Italian poetry by Petrach; Taſſo's own fondneſs for Platoniſm; and the very ſpirit of refinement which pervades Italian minds, Italian thoughts, and Italian language.

[Page 413] THERE is no human work, however perfect upon the whole, that can be pronounced to be faultleſs. Nay a faultleſs work is commonly an inſipid one; that is, hath the greateſt of faults; is all one fault, without particular faults. Where a writer riſes to uncommon excellence, his mind, feeble from the lofty flight, will be apt to ſink beneath even its common level. This remark is as old as the time of Longinus, who well marks the vaſt preference to be given to an author, who, with great faults, hath great beauties, over him who, hath neither fault nor beauty. I do not however mean to apply it to Taſſo, whoſe faults are ſcarce and minute; and his excellencies great and numerous.

IN eſtimating the defects of a valuable author, we ſhould make ourſelves his cotemporaries. If Homer deſerves pardon for the ſimplicity of the manners he paints, becauſe in his time manners were quite of primitive ſimplicity; doth not Taſſo, in like manner, deſerve favour for his ſtyle being now and then too figurative, while we all know that the Italian ſtyle of his age was figurative to exceſs? Do [Page 414] not we pardon to Shakſpere his quibbles, and to Milton his religion? Let us only make half the allowance for Taſſo, whoſe faults are not ſo numerous, nor his merits of ſo high a rank; and it is enough.

THE worth of the Geruſalemme I may perhaps be led to eſtimate on a future occaſion. The ſubject of my preſent Letter ſhall be an equitable enumeration of what are called the conceits to be found in it. I have juſt finiſhed a peruſal of it, made with a view to mark every one that aroſe; and I doubt not but I have done it with a ſevere eye. You ſhall have my liſt, which I believe will be found neither incurious nor unuſeful, after I have obſerved that in Eleven of the Twenty Books of the Geruſalemme, there is not the ſmalleſt ſhadow of too figurative a ſtyle. Theſe Eleven Books are the I. III. V. VI. VIII. IX. XI. XIII. XIV. XV. XVII. The paſſages that are ſuſpicious in the other books are as follow.

No. 1. Move fortezza il gran penſier; l'arreſta
Poi la vergogna, e'l virginal decoro
Vince fortezza, anzi s'accorda, e face
Se vergognofa, e la vergogna audace.
Canto II. Stanza 17

[Page 415] TO this he ſeems to have been induced with a view to fill up his ſtanza; another apology for ſome of his concetti, not before mentioned.

No. 2. Queſto e quel fuoco, ch'io credea che i cori
Ne doveſſe infiammar d'eguali ardori?
Canto II. Stanza 33.
This is Platonic; and might have been written by Petrarch.
No. 3. E fra le ſelve
Fera a gli uomini parve, uomo a le belve.
II. 40.
No. 4. Ma il chiaro umor, the di ſi ſpeſſe ſtille
Le belle gote e'l ſeno adorno rende,
Opra effetto di foco; il qual' in mille
Petti ſerpe celato, e vi s'apprende.
O miracol d'Amor, che le faville
Tragge del pianto, e i cor ne l'acqua accende!
IV. 76.
PETRARCA again.
No. 5. Ma di piu vago ſol piu dolce viſta
Miſero i' perdo.
VII. 49.

THIS would likewiſe have been written by Petrarch; and to accuſe Taſſo of Petrarchiſms would ſound as impious in Italian cars as to arraign a writer of Miltoniſms would in ours: [Page 416] both being in ſuch admiration that imitations even of their faults are thought meritorious. In Canto VIII. 1. L'Alba con la fronte di roſe e co pie d'oro is rather bold, but not to exceſs. Fairfax well tranſlates it; With roſes crown'd, and buſkin'd high with gold. Homer's roſyfinger'd Morn, &c. are as bold to the full.

No. 6. Ch' Apollo inaura
Le roſe che l'Aurora ha colorite.
Canto X. Stanza 14.

THIS juſt Criticiſm would pronounce falſe ornament, tho Homer hath paſſages as glittering.

No. 7. O ſaſſo amato et onerato tanto,
Che dentro has le mie fiamme, e fuori il pianto!
XII. 96.
This is juſtly regarded as the moſt exceptionable paſſage in the whole Poem; yet it ſtill goes not beyond the model of Petrarca. The ſtory of Taſſo's affection for this couplet I recommend to your ſupreme contempt, with that of Milton's admiration of Paradiſe Regained, and other popular tales, which are believed without vouchers, and without, probability. [Page 417]
No. 8. Specchio t'e degno il cielo, e ne le ſtelle
Puoi riguardar le tue ſembianze belle.
Canto XVI. Stanza 22.
This may juſtly be excuſed, from the cruel neceſſity of completing a ſtanza.
No. 9. O tu che porte
Parte teco di me, parte ne laſſi!
XVI. 40.
This likewiſe ſmells of Petrarca.
No. 10. E in lui trova impedita
Amor l'entrata, it lagrimar l'uſcita.
XVI. 51.
No. 11. E gli ſorgeva a fronte
Fatta gia d'auro la vermiglia aurora.
XVIII. 15.
Fronte fatta d'auro, for coronata d'auro, is bold; but I believe not too much ſo: and I think it might be excuſed from the example of Homeric diction.

‘No. 12. Che rendendomi a me, da me mi tolſe. XIX. 95.

ON the ſame footing with No. 9. The warrior who dies with laughter, becauſe the ſpleen is wounded, I ſuſpect loſes his life by miſtake. The paſſage is XX. 39.

[Page 418] No. 13. Che 'l cadavero pur non reſta a i morti. Canto XX. Stanza 46.
No. 14. Veſtirebbe mai forſe i membri ſui
Di quel diaſpro, ond' ei l'alma ha ſi dura?
XX. 66.

SUCH is the liſt of all the paſſages in the Geruſalemme that can lie under the leaſt imputation of too much art. Is it long?

THE reſt of his ſtyle, to the vaſt amount of about Sixteen Thouſand lines, is ſo well ſuſtained, and riſes frequently to ſuch exquiſite beauty, as almoſt to confute the opinion of Longinus, above adduced, with regard to the neceſſity of great excellencies being accompanied with equal blemiſhes. His compoſition taken on the whole is moſt majeſtically grave; and of itſelf ſufficiently arraigns its accuſers of calumny and falſehood. Mere conceits and tinſel may be found in Guarini; but they who look for them in Taſſo, muſt bring them along with them, elſe they will not find them.

IT is riſible to obſerve Boileau the firſt to cry out thief! with regard to Taſſo, when the only time he ever attempted poetry, (for his [Page 419] ſatires and epiſtles, his Imitations as he ought to have called them, are only proſe lace put in ſtarch) I mean in his Ode ſur la proſe de Namur, he has written ſuch pitiful tinſel as any Italian ſchoolboy would have bluſhed at being even ſuſpected of.

AT the ſame time let the apology of temporary influence, which hath power over the greateſt writers, be made for Addiſon, himſelf a proſe writer of the firſt rank; for, in his age, French criticiſm was quite the vogue, as I am affraid it is too much till this day. As we now lead the French faſhions in dreſs, let us attempt to lead them in literature. To attempt, is to ſucceed.

[Page 420]

IN the courſe of our correſpondence, I believe more than one occaſion hath ariſen of placing the critical abilities of Mr. Addiſon in no high eſtimation. But as perhaps ſtronger proofs may be required in the moſt innocent attack upon the ſlighteſt talents of a writer ſo deſervedly eminent, I ſhall, if you pleaſe, in this Letter produce theſe ſtronger proofs. There is another reaſon which induces me to this diſagreeable taſk, and it is, that the moſt minute failings of ſuch an author deſerve animadverſion, for the rocks that have injured a veſſel of ſuch ſupreme rate, would doubtleſs, if not avoided with caution, prove of immediate fatality to critical adventurers of ſmall ſize.

THE only writings of Mr. Addiſon, worthy to be conſidered as pieces of criticiſm, occur in the Spectator. This view of his critical errors ſhall therefore be reſtricted to that work, an [...] taken in the order in which they ariſe. I [Page 421] might be made ten times as long; but I hurry thro it, being ſenſible that the taſk is invidious, and feeling it diſagreeable.

SPECT. No. 5. Addiſon hath given more proofs than one of his very ſlight acquaintance with the Italian language. Armida is, in the opera of Rinaldo, called an Amazonian enchantreſs, or more properly an enchanting Amazon, (taking enchanting in rather an uncommon acceptation) not from her being of the nation of the Amazons, as Addiſon ſtrangely miſunderſtands it; but from her being an enchantreſs and virago. The remark on the Chriſtian Magician is equally abſurd. The Magician doth not deal with the devil, as Addiſon miſrepreſents it much in the ſpirit of an old woman, but with angels, the daemons of Platoniſm; who were thought the ſervants of good men, and none but the good. Before ſuch criticiſms no work can ſtand. The critic totally miſrepreſents the meaning, and then writes criticiſms upon his own miſrepreſentations. The noted attack on Taſſo, which follows theſe odd blunders, is diſmiſſed in pity and ſilent contempt. Taſſo is innocent of the charge, and muſt be honourably [Page 422] acquitted. The Engliſh of Mr. Addiſon's violent hatred of the opera is, that he wrote for the Engliſh theatre, and was mortified to ſee it neglected for the Italian.

No. 18. Phaedra and Hippolitus is ſo woful a tragedy, that I know no Italian opera that would not prove a far higher entertainment.

No. 39. A perfect tragedy, the nobleſt production of human nature! Where is epic poetry? but Addiſon was writing Cato; and his rules of criticiſm are always for his own advantage.

HIS praiſe of Lee on this occaſion, and of Blackmore on another, proves ſufficiently the depth of his critical abilities.

No. 40. The tragicomedy is the moſt natural, and, of conſequence, the moſt proper, ſtyle of the drama. Very little learning is required to know that it is not the product of the Engliſh ſtage, but of every ſtage, ancient and modern; except the French, which is ſacred to Sleep.

No. 44. Oreſtes's plea for not killing the Uſurper inſtantly I believe ſtrikes every reader as futile, and a mere ancient ſtage-trick.

[Page 423] No. 62. The praiſe of Bouhours by Addiſon and Cheſterfield will never reſcue him from the contempt of every man who hath read or thought much. Good ſtomachs cannot be ſatisfied with ſyllabubs. The critique on Gothic architecture ſhews the pitiful gout de comparaiſon. Addiſon did not know that every Art admits of infinite modes of beauty; and that to confine it to one of theſe modes is the reverſe of an attempt to enlarge human knowlege and enjoyment.

No. 160. This eſſay on Genius cannot be read without laughter, and a certain aſſurance that the author knew not what it was.

No. 267. What critic ever heard of an heroic poem? Why examine a poem upon principles utterly inanalagous to it?

I REMEMBER not that Ariſtotle allows that Homer's fable wants unity. If he doth, he is a poor critic; if he doth not, Addiſon is a poorer.

THE perpetual quotations of Ariſtotle give diſguſt. Why doth he never quote Nature?

[Page 424] No. 273. A Greek's regard for Achilles muſt have been very ſmall; like the regard of a Spaniard for a Portugueſe.

No. 285. That the names of figures of ſpeech were invented to palliate defects of ſpeech, is perhaps the only new critical remark Addiſon hath ever made; and it is unhappily quite void of foundation. Mr. Addiſon forgot that grammar was invented for ſpeech, not ſpeech for grammar.

No. 297. There is no occaſion in Nature for an epic poem always ending happily. If ſuch a rule exiſted in the fooliſh axioms of criticiſm, Milton knew to deſpiſe it. Addiſon ſhould have drawn new rules from Milton, and not have pretended to judge him by foreign laws, as he doth all along.

No. 315. The criticiſm on the Third Book of Paradiſe Loſt is not ſufficiently ſevere. It is all beneath the middling from beginning to end.

No. 321. The device of Uriel's deſcent on a ſunbeam is almoſt praiſed in Milton: in Taſſo it would have been tinſel. Taſſo hath nothing [Page 425] ſo tinſical: but thus it is when critics are ruled by prejudice and not by inveſtigation.

No. 339. The golden compaſſes ought to have been reprobated. All metaphors applied from Art to Nature are the very reverſe of ſublime.

No. 305. ‘The firſt original of the drama was a religious worſhip conſiſting only of a Chorus, which was nothing elſe, but an hymn to a deity.’ There are rather more errors in this ſentence than words, as I believe you will judge from former Letters. The deity was Bacchus, yet we are told in the next ſentence of innocence and religion. Was Mr. Addiſon ſo very entire a ſtranger to Greek ſcience as not to know that the worſhip of Bacchus was utterly inconſiſtent with innocence and religion?

No. 412. We are now arrived at the greateſt critical effort of Addiſon; that on the pleaſures of imagination. One of the three cauſes which, he lays down as productive of theſe pleaſures is of no foundation. Novelty never pleaſes, except when accompanied with the other cauſes Grandeur or Beauty. The firſt ſight of an ugly object only makes it more diſguſting than when [Page 426] uſe hath in ſome meaſure reconciled us to it. Dr. Akenſide, you will obſerve from a communication I made to you ſome time ago, had ſtruck it out of his Poem, very juſtly, upon more mature conſideration.

IT is not novelty, but beauty, that makes natural objects more pleaſing in the ſpring. Beſide, they are new to no man. Mr. Addiſon ſurely did not mean his criticiſms for thoſe who had never ſeen the beauties of Spring before.

No. 413. Mr. Addiſon is the firſt writer who diſcovered that final cauſes lie bare to our obſervation. Bacon would have ſaid that final cauſes are utterly unknown to man. Such is the difference between deep and ſuperficial ſcience. Ignorance is always raſh. Knowlege doubts and trembles.

No. 415. ‘For every thing that is majeſtic imprints an awfulneſs and reverence on the mind of the beholder, and ſtrikes in with the natural greatneſs of the ſoul.’ Braviſſimo! Cheeſe is cheeſe! This is a lively inſtance of what they call criticiſm.

[Page 427] I QUESTION if it was Phidias who propoſed to cut Mount Athos into a ſtatue of Alexander. But I beg pardon for ſuch a remark, for nothing is more pardonable than a ſlip of this kind. Indeed they who remember names and dates ſeldom remember any thing elſe.

No. 420. Mr. Addiſon tells us of the moſt agreeable talents of an hiſtorian; and ſeems to think they conſiſt in entertaining his reader. If ſo, fabulous hiſtorians are beſt. The moſt agreeable talent of an hiſtorian is to inſtruct. This is done by diſcuſſion of human actions, and of the characters who were their agents.

SUCH are the brief remarks which at preſent occur to me upon the critical errors of Addiſon. Volumes might have been written to refute ſeveral of them; but I know that to you they need only be hinted. Beſides I was quite impatient to get rid of this ungrateful taſk; for Addiſon is one of my moſt favorite writers, and nothing but my ſacred love of critical equity could have been an inducement to its execution.

[Page 428] THE beſt writers are perhaps the moſt liable to faults of a certain kind, in like manner as fertile ground is, where no grain is ſown, fertile of weeds. Strong weeds ſpeak a rich ſoil, nearly as much as ſtrong corn; yet they ought to be rooted up that they may not injure the harveſt.

[Page 429]

ACCORDING to your deſire, I now ſend you the Confeſſions of Rouſſeau, perhaps the moſt ſingular production that ever ſaw the light. Nothing can more ſtrongly prove the near alliance of great genius with madneſs.

I KNOW of no work that can be mentioned as parallel to, Rouſſeau's; except Cardan's account of his own life. I know not indeed which is the moſt extravagant, Cardan's account of his ſeeing little brazen armies combat round his feet as he lay in bed of a morning, and the like prodigies to be found in the very curious work De Vita propria; or Rouſſeau's viſions of his future happineſs with Madame Warens, and other day dreams.

A PARALLEL in the manner of Plutarch might I think with eaſe be inſtituted between the two works. Rouſſeau was of great reputation, ſo was Cardan: Rouſſeau ſuperabounds [Page 430] with extravagant egotiſm as well as the other: Rouſſeau is ſometimes almoſt ſublime, ſo is Cardan; witneſs this paſſage of the IX Chapter of the latter on fame. ‘Scribes, inquam, quomodo legenda: et de qua re praeclara, et adeo tibi nota, ut deſiderare legentes poſſint? Quo ſtylo, qua ſermonis elegantia ut legere ſuſtineant? Sic ut legant? Nonne aevo praeterlabante in ſingulos dies fiet auctio ut prius ſcripta contemnantur, nedum negligantur? At durabunt aliquot annis? Quot? Centum? Mille? Decies mille? Oſtende exemplum vel unum inter tot millia. Atque omnino cum deſitura ſint etiam ſi per reditus mundus renovaretur, ut Academici volunt, non minus quam ſi ut initium habuit et finem accepturus eſt, nil intereſt an poſt decimam diem, an decem millia myriadum annorum. Nihil utrumque, et ex aequo ad eternitatis ſpatium.’ &c.

SOME of Cardan's Proecepta ad Filios, ſubjoined to his life, are likewiſe very good. Such as

‘LAETE vivite quando licet; curae enim hominem atterunt non liberant.’ p. 271.

[Page 431] ‘NOLITE opes effundere nec contemnere: ſunt enim inſtrumenta omnium bonorum.’ p. 276.

‘QUAE facturus es nemini dixeris: ne impediaris vel invidearis.’ p. 278.

[Page 432]

AMONG our tranſlations from the Eaſtern languages, I am ſurprized that none hath yet appeared in Engliſh of the two great works of Muſladin Sadi, the Orchard, and The Roſary, or Flower-garden, as they are quaintly intitled. The original Perſian I muſt confeſs my ignorance of; but the latter tranſlated into Latin by a Georgius Gentius, in 1655, now lies before me, and conſidered as an Eaſtern production of the Thirteenth century hath no ſmall merit. I know not if the firſt be yet tranſlated.

THE author of Les Saiſons, Poeme, Paris 1769, I believe M.S. Lambert, hath well tranſlated a number of Sadi's apologues. As I cannot find all his tranſlations in the Roſary, I take it that he hath given ſome of them from the other work, called The Orchard. Knowing your fondneſs for the Eaſtern apologue, I incloſe my tranſlations of a number of them from both works for your amuſement.

[Page 433]

1.51.1. APOLOGUE I.

A KING had condemned one of his ſlaves to death. The ſlave, in the anguiſh of his deſpair, knew no bounds, but abuſed the prince his maſter with the moſt bitter reproaches. What doth he ſay? ſaid the monarch to his favorite, who ſtood near the ſlave. Sir, anſwered the favorite, he ſays that the golden gates of paradiſe open of themſelves to the merciful; and he entreats your forgivenneſs with the moſt proſtrate ſupplication. I grant him forgivenneſs, ſaid the king.

A COURTIER, who had been a long time the enemy of the favorite, had heard the real words of the ſlave. You are groſſly deceived, Sir, ſaid he to the Monarch: that wretch reviles you in the moſt bitter terms. The king anſwered, the lye is the lye of humanity; thy truth is the truth of cruelty. Then, turning to his favorite, he ſaid, Oh my beſt friend, thy words SHALL be the truth!

1.51.2. APOLOGUE II.

[Page 434]

I WALKED with my friend during the great heat of the day, under an avenue of lofty trees which afforded a ſhade impregnable to the blaze of the ſun. A rivulet ran by thro banks of the freſheſt and greeneſt turf. I ſaw the viſir Karoun ſtretched upon that turf. He was aſleep.

GREAT GOD, ſaid I, doth not the remembrance of the evil he hath done prevent Karoun from enjoying the bleſſings of repoſe! Doth the ſoft murmur of the ſighs of the unhappy only ſooth him to profound ſlumber!

MY friend underſtood me, and ſaid, God ſometimes giveth ſleep to the wicked that the good may be at reſt.

1.51.3. APOLOGUE III.

A BLIND man had a wife, whom he loved to exceſs, tho he was told that ſhe was very ugly. A phyſician offered to cure him. H [...] would not conſent to it. I ſhould loſe, ſaid he the love which I feel for my wife. That lov [...] is my happineſs.

[Page 435] THE troops of Coſroes were vanquiſhed the day of an eclipſe of the ſun. The Perſians, adorers of the ſun, imagined that phenomenon denounced deſtruction to the empire. This imagination extinguiſhed every ſpark of their courage.

ERROR may conſtitute the happineſs of an individual; but it is always the ſource of miſery to a nation.

1.51.4. APOLOGUE IV.

ONE day I went home with a mind filled with chagrin. After having, in my heart, ſatirized all conditions of men, and even myſelf, I fell into a profound ſleep, and had a dream. I imagined myſelf tranſported to a ſolitude, remote from the vices and follies of mankind. I walked with tranquil joy in a large foreſt, which I thought protected my cottage from the violent winds of Arabia; and forgot in its ſhades the caprices of life.

THE ſun aroſe. His rays gilded the verdure over my head with feeble tranſparency. I heard [Page 436] the ſongs of a multitude of birds. I was attentive to all their accents. I obſerved the diverſity of their forms; of their plumage; of their flight.

HEAVEN lent me of a ſudden the power of underſtanding their ſeveral dialects. The eagle railed at the owl on her weakneſs of ſight: the turtle dove ſpoke very ill of the hawk, who expreſſed contempt for his weakneſs: the blackbird was very jocoſe on the cry of the eagle: the jay and the magpie mocked each other; they reproached the crow with his melancholy appearance; and ſaid that the ſparrow had a vulgar look.

THERE ſuddenly deſcended from heaven a moſt extraordinary apparition. It was a youth whoſe colour reſembled roſes ſprinkled over pure ſnow by ſome playful virgin of Circaſſia. His wings were of the moſt delicate azure, and their edges ſtreaked with gold, as the beams of the morning ſtreak the ſummer ſky. His locks were black as ebony. His eyes were blacker than ebony. No hypocrite could bear their piercing radiance, which went to the bottom of the ſoul. He alighted on a lofty plane-tree, [Page 437] whoſe height ſurpaſſed the cedars of the foreſt. He called the different birds by their names. They obeyed, and flocked around him, perching on the branches of the ſurrounding cedars. They trembled in ſilence. He ſpoke.

HEAR what I reveal to you by command of the Moſt High. Ye are all equal in merit in his ſight. Ye only differ in qualities, becauſe ye are deſtined to different functions.

THOU, the eagle, art born for war: thy cry, expreſſive of force, cannot have harmony. The owl could not have caught reptiles and inſects, of which ſhe was made to clear the earth, if her eyes, of minute and nocturnal viſion, could have met the blaze of the meridian ſun. The nightingale and linnet, it is true, are of delicate conſtitution; but how elſe could they poſſeſs delicacy of ſong? The turtle is made for love; the hawk for rapine. Remain in your reſpective conditions without regret, and without pride. There are differences in your kinds, but there are no faults.

AT theſe words I ſaw the birds diſperſe thro the foreſt; and the genius flew to heaven darting at me a look that ſpoke.

[Page 438] I WAKED and ſaid: ſhall I then expect from the cadi the mildneſs of the courtier? From the iman the freedom of the warrior? From the merchant the diſintereſtedneſs of the ſage? From the ſage the activity of the ambitious? O heavenly ſpirit, it is Sadi whom thou haſt inſtructed! Thy leſſons ſhall be engraven on my heart, and my lips ſhall repeat them to the ſons of men!

O MY brethren, we depart together, but on different voyages: ſome to the north, and others to the regions of the ſun. We require not the ſame clothes nor the ſame proviſions. We live in a family of which the father hath furniſhed us with very different accoutrements. Why ſhould he who prunes the vines hold the inſtruments of tillage?

1.51.5. APOLOGUE V.

THREE inhabitants of Balck travelled in company. They found a treaſure, and divided it among them; then continued their journey, converſing together on the uſe which they meaned to make of their riches. The victuals, [Page 439] which they had brought along with them, were conſumed: they agreed that one of them ſhould go to the city for more, while the other two waited his return in a pleaſant ſpot where they intended to dine. The youngeſt accepted the commiſſion, and departed.

HE ſaid to himſelf on the way, I am rich, but I would have been much more ſo had I been alone at the time of finding this treaſure— Theſe men are the robbers of my riches—Can I not reſume them? Yes with eaſe. I have only to poiſon the victuals which I am about to buy. At my return I will ſay I have dined in the city. My companions will eat, and die, without ſuſpicion. I have now only the third of the treaſure. I will then have all.

MEANWHILE the two other travellers ſaid to each other, It was fooliſh to allow that younker to aſſociate with us. We have been obliged to ſhare the treaſure with him. His part would have much augmented ours; and we ſhould without him have been rich indeed —But he returns and we have ſwords—

[Page 440] THE young man returned with the poiſoned proviſions. His companions were his aſſaſſins. They eat. They died. The treaſure was again to find: again to be the ſource of crimes.

1.51.6. APOLOGUE VI.

A KING of Chorazan ſaid to his viſir, The people of Bactriana are commanded by a prince of feeble talents and without experience. They have no allies; and the conqueſt is eaſy. Aſſemble my forces, and march againſt them.

I OBEY, anſwered the viſir; but by what right will you raviſh their liberties from a nation who are not your foes?

THAT conqueſt, ſaid the king, will encreaſe my power. Is it a crime to ſignalize my courage, and extend my empire?

CAN it be innocent, replied the viſir, to give your ſubjects and the world an example of injuſtice?

1.51.7. APOLOGUE VII.

[Page 441]

COSROES cauſed this inſcription to be engraven on his diadem: Many have poſſeſſed this. Many will poſſeſs it. O poſterity, thy ſteps will be imprinted on the duſt of my tomb!

1.51.8. APOLOGUE VIII.

IN proportion as time hath made to paſs before my eyes a larger number of events; and ſince the colour of my hair is that of the ſwans who ſport in the waters of the garden of the great king; I have thought that the ſupreme Arbiter of our lot, who made man and virtue, never leaves without pleaſure the heart of the good, nor a benevolent action without reward. Hear, ſons of men! Hear this faithful recital.

IN one [...] [...]heſe fertile vallies, which interſect the chain of the mountains of Arabia, lived for a long time a rich and ancient ſhepherd. I knew him well. They called him happy. He was content. One day that he walked on the brink of a torrent, thro an alley of palm trees, the brown [Page 440] [...] [Page 441] [...] [Page 442] foliage of which diverſified the verdure of the cedars, that crowned the ſurrounding hills, he heard a voice which ſometimes filled the vale with piercing cries; and of which the melting murmurs were, at other intervals, not diſtinguiſhable from the ſound of the ſtream.

THE old ſhepherd ran to the ſpot from whence the voice aroſe. He beheld, at the foot of a rock, a young man half-reclined upon the ſand. His clothes were torn. His locks fell in diſorder over his face, in which beauty ſhone thro the thick ſhade of grief, as the ſun from a morning cloud. His cheeks wet with tears; his head bent on his boſom; he reſembled a roſe daſhed with the ſummer ſtorm. The rich ſhepherd was moved. He accoſted the youth, and ſaid, Son of miſery! come to my arms. Let me preſs to my boſom the man of grief. He is my brother. His ſorrow is mine.

THE young man lifted his head in profound ſilence. He looked upon the ole, man as aſoniſhed that benevolence and pity were yet exiſting on earth. The ſole appearance of the venerable ſhepherd inſpired immediate confidence. [Page 443] His moiſt eyes were full of ſoftneſs and ſympathetic fire. They had that tenderneſs which makes the unhappy ſpeak.

RISING from the ground the youth threw himſelf into the arms of the ſhepherd, calling with a voice that made all the circling hills reſound, O Father! O more than father! When he was calmed a little by the converſation and careſſes of the old man, he thus anſwered his repeated queſtions.

BEHIND theſe lofty cedars, at the foot of the higheſt of theſe mountains, ſtands the houſe of Shel-Adar, father of Fatmé. The hut of my father is not far from thence. Fatmé is the moſt beautiful of the daughters of the hills. I offered myſelf to guide the flocks of her father, and he conſented to it. He is rich. The father of Fatmé is rich;—and my father is poor. I love Fatmé. Fatmé returns my affection. Her father perceived it: we confeſſed our loves to him; and he wiſhes to conſtrain me to leave the country in which his daughter dwells. I threw myſelf at his feet, and ſaid, O father of Fatmé, let me at leaſt reſide with my father. [Page 444] I conſent never more to ſpeak to Fatmé. I will never enquire of her heart. I will promiſe that I will not. But give me to conduct one of thy moſt remote flocks. O permit me at leaſt to ſerve the father of Fatmé! Shel-Adar hath refuſed me all: He hath treated me with harſhneſs, while I had not ſtrength to flie from his houſe, even before his violence. He threatens Fatmé. Alas, I am now diſtant from her habitation! Fatmé is unhappy. My father is infirm. My mother is no more. I have two brethren, ſo ſmall that they could hardly reach the loweſt branches of theſe palm trees. My father and my brothers received all their ſubſiſtence from me. The bounty of Shel-Adar is no longer my ſupport. Can miſery be equal to mine?

MY ſon, ſaid the old man, let us go together to the paſtures of Shel-Adar. I will aſſiſt thee to walk. Come. The youth conſented to it; he dragged his ſteps along with much difficulty, Drawing near to the reſidence of Shel-Adar they beheld his daughter. She was loſt in melancholy. The young man ſaid to the aged, Behold Fatmé! The ſhepherd without reply entered the houſe of Shel-Adar, and ſpoke to him thus.

[Page 445] A DOVE of Aleppo was carried to Damaſcus. She lived there with a mate of the country. Their maſter fearing the dove of Aleppo would one day return, and entice the other with her, had them put them aſunder. They no longer would eat the grain which he held to them from his own hand. They both ſickened. They died.

O SHEL-ADAR, divide not thoſe who only live, becauſe they live together. This young man, whom thou haſt driven from thy houſe, is he a ſon of virtue?

SHEL-ADAR anſwered: The prophet be my witneſs in what I am about to ſpeak. As the white lily in a bed of narciſſuſes is that youth among the faithful. He ſurpaſſes all the young ſhepherds in piety, goodneſs, and vigilance. But—he is poor.

AH, ſaid the old ſhepherd, I and my ſons have flocks without number! I poſſeſs all the rich valley of Horafa. The riches of the young man ſhall be my care. A large portion of my ſlocks ſhall be at thy door on the morrow, providing thou wilt give him Fatmé.

[Page 446] SHEL-ADAR knew the fame of the old ſhepherd. He promiſed his daughter. The venerable ancient retired.

ON the morrow he ſent to the reſidence of Shel-Adar a number of flocks, more white than the ſnow on the tops of the mountains in winter; and herds of horſes more beautiful and nimble than thoſe that carried the prophet.

SOME days after this worthy action, the rich and good ſhepherd went towards the cedars, beneath which ſtood the dwelling of Shel-Adar. Attend, O ſons of men, attend.

THE good ſhepherd was leaving a grove, and entering on a meadow, thro which ran a ſtream bordered with fig-trees. He ſaw upon the graſt Shel-Adar, who held the hand of an old man, whoſe countenance expreſſed wiſdom and gaiety, The old ſhepherd ſaw them, and ſtopped to enjoy all the pleaſure which the ſight of the happineſs of his brethren in age could afford. The old men had a number of youths about them; among whom were two children, who ſometimes played on the graſs, and then would come to careſs the two fathers. They were [Page 447] well-clad; they had all the health, vivacity, and gaiety of their age. The good ſhepherd eaſily underſtood that theſe children were the brothers of the young huſband of Fatmé; and that the old man, who held Shel-Adar by the hand, was their father.

NIGHER to the good ſhepherd, by the ſhade of the grove, Fatmé and her huſband ſat on the graſs. In motionleſs rapture they often looked upon each other with intenſe eagerneſs. They ſmiled ſo ſweetly that it ſeemed that pleaſure alone had ever printed its veſtige on their faces. Often the young couple interrupted their delicious ſilence by lively, but modeſt, careſſes. One might ſee that they were reſtrained by the preſence of their fathers. Often they looked around them; and appeared intoxicated with the felicity of all that was dear to them, more than even with their own. Their joy, which inſpired all the company, manifeſted itſelf equally in all their faces; as the ſame ſap produces like flowers on all the branches of the orange-tree.

[Page 448] THE good ſhepherd looked on each of them by turns. He then chanced to turn his eyes toward the neighbouring meadows. He beheld the flocks which he had given to Shel-Adar. They ſurpaſſed thoſe of Shel-Adar, among which they were mingled, and were diſtinguiſhable by their ſuperior whiteneſs and beauty. Their guides ſung the happineſs of their maſters and their own own.

SONS of men, ye have heard my faithful recital. Be virtuous ye poor, that the rich may be benevolent. Be benevolent ye rich, that the poor may be virtuous.

1.51.9. APOLOGUE IX.

NOURSHIVAN the Juſt, being one day a hunting, would have eaten of the game, which he had killed, but from the conſideration that, after dreſſing it, his attendants had no ſalt to give it a reliſh. He ſent at laſt to buy ſome at the next village; but with ſevere injunctions not to take it without paying for it. What would be the harm, ſaid one of his courtiers, if the king did not pay for a little ſalt? Nourſhivan [Page 449] anſwered, If a king gathers an apple in the garden of one of his ſubjects, on the morrow the courtiers cut down all the trees.

1.51.10. APOLOGUE X.

A VIRTUOUS king, in an angry moment, ordered one of his ſlaves, who was innocent, to be put to death. O king, ſaid he, my puniſhment ends with my life: thine begins at the cloſe of mine. He was forgiven.

1.51.11. APOLOGUE XI.

THE ſon of Aaron Al-Raſchid came to him with bitter complaints againſt a man who had ſlandered his mother; and demanded vengeance. O my ſon, ſaid Aaron Al-Raſchid, thou art about to be thyſelf the worſt ſlanderer of thy mother, by perſuading the world that ſhe hath not taught thee to forgive.

1.51.12. APOLOGUE XII.

[Page 450]

A MAN had quitted the ſociety of the derviſes, and entered into that of the philoſophers. What difference do you find, ſaid I to him, between a philoſopher and a derviſe? He anſwered, Both ſwim acroſs a great river with their brethren of men. The derviſe keeps at a diſtance from the company, that he may ſwim at eaſe, and arrive alone on the oppoſite ſhore. The philoſopher, on the contrary, ſwims with the reſt, and often ſtretches forth his hand in their aſſiſtance.

1.51.13. APOLOGUE XIII.

NOURSHIVAN the Juſt, being but prince of Chorazan, and ſubject of the king of kings, loved pleaſures and lived ſplendor; his riches were bounteouſly diſpoſed far and near. The moſt excellent ſingers, the moſt ſkilful muſicians, came to entreat his audience; and the firſt audience made them opulent. When he at length ſat upon the throne of the world, they flocked from all parts of the earth. He [Page 451] heard them with pleaſure; but paid them with far leſs liberality than when he was a ſubject prince. One of the muſicians dared to complain. May heaven, ſaid he, be propitious to Nourſhivan! Empire hath enlarged his wealth, and contracted his mind. Ye kings, write the anſwer of the Juſt in letters of gold; and, while ye read it every day after your morning devotions, again bend the knee in adoration, for the deity ſpoke by his mouth! Nourſhivan ſail, FORMERLY I GAVE MY OWN MONEY: NOW I GIVE THAT OF MY PEOPLE.

1.51.14. APOLOGUE XIV.

A KING of Perſia had extended an hand of iniquity over his people: he held them in abject ſlavery; and augmented their miſery by open ſcorn. Impatient of the harſh and humiliating yoke, the greater part of his ſubjects left their country, and ſought a refuge among ſtrangers. The revenues of the prince diminiſhed with the number of his ſubjects. His neighbours profited by his folly. His ſtates were attacked, and the diſcontented ſoldiers defended them feebly. He was dethroned.

[Page 452] A KING ought to nouriſh his people even with his own ſubſtance; becauſe he holds his kingdom of his people. Every ſubject is the ſoldier of a juſt king.

1.51.15. APOLOGUE XV.

A KING, on his coming to the throne, had found immenſe wealth in the coffers of his father. The hand of magnificence was opened; and the riches of the prince were diffuſed among the people. A viſir reproached the prince upon this: If an enemy, ſaid he, attacks your frontiers, how will you defend yourſelf, after having diſtributed your money among your SUBJECTS? Then, replied the king, I will borrow it of my FRIENDS.

1.51.16. APOLOGUE XVI.

A RELIGIOUS man was much reſpected in Bagdad for his ſincere virtue, and both the great men and the people thought that his prayers took heaven by ſtorm. Haſchas Joſeph, tyrant of Bagdad, came to him and ſaid, [Page 453] Pray God for me. Great God, ſaid the religious, lifting his hands to heaven, take Haſchas Joſeph from this world! Wretch, thou curſeſt me, ſaid the tyrant. I aſk of heaven, replied the pious, the greateſt favour it can grant thee and thy people.

1.51.17. APOLOGUE XVII.

THE wiſe Zirvan, after having enjoyed the confidence of the great Dachelim, king of the Indies, and the eſteem of all his people, was perſecuted by the viſir Sourac. Zirvan beheld himſelf ſtripped of his wealth and employments. His wife died of ſorrow. His ſon would have comforted him.—His ſon was in chains.

ZIRVAN, with eyes full of tears, went every day into the garden of the great Dachelim. There he lay at the foot of a palm-tree, and related to it his innocence, and his misfortunes.

A YOUNG man of the court ſaw and heard him. What, ſaid he, doſt thou complain to that tree? Doſt thou think it ſenſitive?

[Page 454] AS man is, anſwered Zirvan, and it doth not interrupt me.

1.51.18. APOLOGUE XVIII.

A YOUNG king gave himſelf up to diſſipation, and to all the pleaſures prepared for him by thoſe infamous courtiers, who build their hopes on the weakneſs of their maſter. One day he ſung at a feaſt theſe words, I have enjoyed the paſt: I enjoy the preſent: and am not ſolicitous of the future. A beggar, ſitting under the hall-window, heard the king, and exclaimed, If thou art not ſolicitous about thy own lot, thou oughteſt to be about ours.

THE king was ſtruck with the ſpeech. He approached the window, looked upon the poor man with attention, and, without ſpeaking to him, ordered him a large ſum of money; then left the hall in ſilence. He reflected upon his paſt life. It had been oppoſite to all his duties. He was aſhamed of himſelf. He aſſumed the reins of government, which he had, till then, entruſted to his favorites. He laboured aſſiduouſly; and in a little time he re-eſtabliſhed the order and happineſs of the empire.

[Page 455] COMPLAINTS were, in the mean while, often made to him about the licentious life of the poor man whom he had enriched. At laſt he came one day to the gate of the palace, covered with his old rags, and begging alms. The king ſhewed him to one of the wiſe men of the court; for he had loved wiſe men ſince he had loved virtue; and ſaid, Behold the effects of my goodneſs. I loaded that wretch with wealth; and my benevolence hath only corrupted him. Riches have been to him the ſource of new vices, and of new miſery. It is true, ſaid the ſage; becauſe thou haſt given to poverty the rewards of labour.

1.51.19. APOLOGUE XIX.

I FOUND one day, on the ſea ſhore, a virtuous labourer whom a tiger had almoſt devoured. He was on the point of expiring, and in great agony. Great God, ſaid he, I thank thee. I ſuffer pain, but not remorſe.

1.51.20. APOLOGUE XX.

[Page 456]

THE ſon of Nourſhivan ſaw one day a ſage who had his eyes and arms lifted to heaven, and his face turned toward the eaſt. He made to God this prayer. O great God, extend thy pity and benefits to the wicked. For the good it ſuffices that they are good.

1.51.21. APOLOGUE XXI.

A YOUNG man, being intoxicated with wine, fell aſleep by the ſide of the highway. A religious, paſſing along ſome time after, bitterly reviled him. The youth, now ſober thro ſleep, raiſed his head, and ſaid, If good men paſs a ſinner, they paſs him with benevolence.

1.51.22. APOLOGUE XXII.

ABU HURURA uſed to think it his duty often to ſee Muſtapha, to whom God be merciful. Muſtapha one day ſaid to him, O Abu Hurura, ſee me ſeldom that love may increaſe.

1.51.23. APOLOGUE XXIII.

[Page 457]

A FOX running very faſt was met by a civet cat. What crime have you committed, ſaid the cat, that you ſhould flie ſo ſwiftly? The fox anſwered, I flie becauſe I heard hunters in the field who ſaid they wiſhed very much for a camel. Is there any likeneſs between you? No, ſaid the fox, but if any of my enemies came in, and called me a camel, I know there would be no further enquiries.

1.51.24. APOLOGUE XXIV.

I REMEMBER that in my youth, having notions of ſevere piety, I uſed to riſe in the night to watch, pray, and read the holy Koran. One night that I had never ſlept, but was wholly employed in thoſe exerciſes, my father, a man of practical virtue, awaked while I was reading the Koran with ſilent devotion. Behold, ſaid I to him, thy other children are loſt in religious ſlumber, while I alone wake to praiſe God. Son of my ſoul, he anſwered, it is better to ſleep than wake to remark the faults of thy brethren.

[Page 458]

A PROMISE is with me a matter of moſt A religious conſideration, and as you are pleaſed to remind me of one I made to you, on a former occaſion, with regard to Taſſo's Geruſalemne, I haſten to fulfil it by ſubmitting to you aneſtimate of the merits of that work.

TO proceed on this after the manner in which Mr. Addiſon hath treated the Paradiſe Loſt vill be moſt eligible; that is, firſt to conſider the faults of the work, then to examine is worth under the diſtinct heads of Fable with its incidents, Perſons, and Language.

THE faults of language have already been diſcuſſed in a former Letter, to which I refer: thoſe that remain for preſent animadverſion belong to the incidents and characters; and the defects of both are happily minute and rare.

[Page 459] THE only incident, which I can condemn in the whole fable, is to be found in the Thirty-third, and following, ſtanzas of the Fourteenth Canto, and a few ſtanzas of the Fifteenth. The ſtory of the old Magician; his connexion with Peter the Hermit; his dwelling (XV. 3. &c.) are all unnatural to exceſs; ineredulus odi. To a good Chriſtian's being a Magician, in Lord Bacon's ſenſe, I cannot confirm Mr. Addiſon's objection. The popular ſuperſtition hath white wizards, and black wizards; magicians who deal with the demons of Platoniſin, and with devils. The Eaſtern creed makes Salomon a magician and pious prince, without ſuſpicion of diſſonancy. It is not therefore to this perſon's being a pious magician that I object, but to the unneceſſary miracles that are diffuſed around him; not to the Character, but to the Incidents which attend it.

WITH regard to the faulty Characters in the Geruſalemme, I think that there are far too many female warriors in it. We are obliged to Virgil for the firſt perſonage of this ſort; the vere ſenſe of Homer admitted no ſuch dreams. Dacier hath well obſerved that a circumſtance [Page 460] that is poſitive fact in real life, might yet be much too improbable for poetry. We know from hiſtory that Vermina, the daughter of Syphax, was in the field fighting in aſſiſtance of Hannibal, when he received his laſt defeat from Scipio; a circumſtance, which, being ſo recent, probably ſuggeſted Camilla to Virgil. We know from hiſtory the martial ſpirit of Bonduca, of many Scandinavian ladies, and the like; yet all theſe will not vindicate the admiſſion of female warriors into poetry, where the GRAND TRUTH OF NATURE is the object, not the paltry truth of fact. Taſſo hath however a very ſtrong apology to offer for his ſometimes making the word warrior of the feminine gender, and that is the coincidence of his ſtory with the times and manners of chivalry: times and manners which preſented ſo many inſtances of this ſoleciſm in coſtume, as almoſt to elevate truth of fact into truth of nature.

SO much for the faults of the Geruſalemme: they are not many; yet the eye of critical juſtice will never be able to find more. The beauties fortunately preſent themſelves at more length.

[Page 461] THE FABLE is certainly one, of the very beſt for epic poetry that ever was choſen. It is ſuperior to that of the Iliad, as much as the Sepulchre of Chriſt was thought at the period of the action, (and to which in all poetry we muſt ever accommodate our minds,) to exceed the value of a ſtrumpet; as much as the object of the moſt zealous adoration of half the globe was ſuperior to the teterrima belli cauſa.

THE Fable was ſo grand and general, had Taſſo managed it to its utmoſt advantage, as to intereſt every nation in Europe by the detail of the exploits of its own warriors. It may indeed be noted as a blemiſh in the conduct of the fable, that Taſſo is always an Italian and not an European. He never dwells with apparent ſatisfaction but upon the glorious deeds of his own countrymen, who had in fact the ſmalleſt ſhare in the enterpriſe. Homer's fable only nationally intereſted the Greeks and neighbouring ſtates: Taſſo's might have nationally intereſted every country of Europe, had he uſed it with proper liberality. As it ſtands it is a great and intereſting Fable to every reader; tho, it muſt at the ſame time be [Page 462] confeſſed, that it might have been rendered more ſo to an infinite degree.

MOST of the INCIDENTS muſt be allowed to have great novelty and merit. None of them are foreign to the work, or can properly be called epiſodes, like Virgil's of Dido, which hath no ſort of relation to his fable. The incident of Olindo and Sophronia, tho one of the moſt detached, is infinitely more a part of the Geruſalemme, than the adventure with Dido is of the Eneid; and were it much leſs ſo, its eminent beauty muſt preclude it from all cenſure: if we condemn it, we muſt crown it with laurel. Moſt of the incidents have moreover that pleaſing air of miracle, which offends not probability, and affords the genuine pleaſure of poetry to the reader. Thoſe incidents, around which this fairy light is not caſt, maintain their native force with great dignity and intereſt. The grand incident of Armida's intervention, with its conſequences, is maſterly to a ſupreme degree: the miraculous is thro-out carried to all its height, yet with the conſtant preſervation of a ſevere probability. The departure of Rinaldo from the camp is artfully [Page 463] managed. Had he left it with the herd of warriors who followed Armida, the dignity of his character would have ſuffered violation. A ſtronger cauſe, and worthy of the effect, preſents itſelf to us; and ſaves the fame of Rinaldo and of Taſſo.

THE ſubſequent amorous adventures of Rinaldo and Armida, Taſſo appears to me to have taken the hint of from thoſe of Mars and Venus, as beautifully painted by the celebrated Agnolo Poliziano in his Stanze, written upwards of half a century before the! Geruſalemme. If you have not read the Italian poetry of Poliziano, you have a great pleaſure yet to come. His Stanze are exquiſite, and his Dithyrambic Ode beginning

Ognun' ſequa Baccho te!
Baccho, Baccho, evoe!
Chi vol bever, chi vol bevere
Vegna a bever, vegna qui, &c.
to be found at the end of his Orfeo deſerves high praiſe. The beſt edition of his Stanze, &c. is that of Padua 1765.

[Page 464] TO return. The paſtoral incident in the Seventh book is a delicious relief from the ſcenes of war and horror which precede it. Nothing can have a more pleaſing effect on the imagination than ſuch contraſts, when managed with artificial propriety. The return to proſſpects of the greateſt horror and ſublimity in nature, which the after part of this Seventh Book preſents, is ſtill an example of the happy effect of contraſt of incident, which is never perceived but by a reader of ſome taſte; whereas contraſt of character is glaring, and of no art or effect. It is always a ſure mark of a writer's inexperience in portraits when he is obliged to ſet them off by foils.

THE incident of the death of Sueno and his hoſt in the Eighth Book, ſeems to me more of an unneceſſary epiſode than the tale of Olindo and Sophronia, ſo much objected to by ſmall critics. It may be hiſtoric truth, for aught I remember, for I have not now the Geſta Dei per Francos at hand, but I fear it is not poetic truth. Cui bono? What purpoſe doth it ſerve? Yet, after all, he muſt be a ſevere critic who would range it with the faults of the Geruſalemme. [Page 465] It bears a general connexion with the piece in different minute after relations; which is ſurely enough for its vindication. Can ſo much be ſaid for the ghoſt of Dido?

TO dwell on all the incidents of the Geruſelemme were inconſiſtent with my purpoſe; I ſhall therefore content myſelf with proceeding to hint at only the principal. Soliman's introduction to Aladin, in the Tenth Book, is a very great improvement on that of Ulyſes to Alcinous in the Seventh book of the Odyſſey. The whole adventure with Iſmeno is maſterly, and ſuperlatively pleaſing to the imagination. Taſſo's very imitations are in that original ſtyle, which, I think, you before agreed is the only poſſible merit which imitation can have; and in fact none but original writers can imitate in this way.

The ſtory of Clorinda is evidently built upon the Ethiopic Hiſtory of Heliodorus, a work of the very firſt merit. The incident of her dying by the hands of Tancred, her lover, is artfully wrought up, and hath no ſmall claim to the pathetic.

[Page 466] IN the Thirteenth Book the enchanted wood, and apparition of the city of fire, are incidents of miracle, ſpecioſa, miracula, which approach to the ſublime. The principal incident of the next Canto hath already been mentioned in terms of reprobation.

IN the Fifteenth Canto the voyage of the two warriors is exquiſitely pleaſing to the imagination. Taſſo, in the firſt edition of his poem, made them go to America, and beyond; but well altered this, and confined their voyage to the length of the Canary or Fortunate iſlands. Indeed it was violation of probability to ſuppoſe that three perſons, natives of Europe were in America in the Eleventh century, and yet that continent remain undiſcovered till the Fifteenth; tho theſe Europeans returned in ſafety to a whole army of their countrymen, and muſt have been ſuppoſed to have related this adventure to them in terms of due admiration. The fifteen reſcinded ſtanzas are however well worthy of Taſſo, and as I dare ſay you have not ſeen them, I ſhall give you one or two.

[Page 467] THE firſt deſcribes the croſs, a conſtellation of the ſouthern hemiſphere.

Miran quaſi duo nuvoli di molte
Luci in un congregate, e, in mezzo a quelle,
Girar con anguſtiſſime rivolte
Due pigre e brune e picciolette ſtelle:
E ſovra lor, di Croce in forma accolte,
Quattro piu grandi luminoze e belle,
Eccovi i lumi oppoſti al freddo Plauſtro;
Che qui ſegnano (diſſe) il Polo d' Auſtro.
Miran due merghi indi, con l' ale molli
Quaſi radendo andar l' onda marina:
La fatal donna a i duo Guerrier moſtrolli,
Per ſegno the la ripa e gia vicina.
Et ecco di lontano oſcuri colli
Scopron de l'umil terra peregrina.
Lor nel petto un deſio ſubito viene
Di laſciar l' acque, e di calcar l' arene.

Theſe two deſcribe the pacific ocean, and the iſles on one of which Armida's ſtation was at firſt placed by Taſſo.

Eſcon del breve ſtretto al oceano
Vaſto et immenſo, il qual co venti ha tregua;
Si ch' onda pur non diſſaguaglia il piano
Cui ſtabil calma, a quaſi eterna, adegua:
Or, perche 'l corſo, che da ſenno umano
Retto non e, rapidamente ſegua,
[Page 468] Spinge ſempre ſoave, e ſempre eguale,
Gli avventuroſi erranti aura fatale.
A deſtra é lungo tratto: e quivi e il Guito,
E co'l ricco Peru l'aurea Caſtiglia.
Ma la nave, ſeguendo it manco lito,
Ver la terra anco ignota il cammin piglie;
E trova un mar, ſi d' Iſole fornito
Che l' Egeo con le Cicladi ſomiglia.
E gia da che laſciar l' arene Ibere
Eran dieci albe ſcorſe, e dieci ſere.

IN the Sixteenth Canto the incident of Rinaldo's immediate aſſent to the perſuaſions of the two warriors is much too rapid. As it was the hinge upon which the criſis of the poem turned, no art ſhould have ſpared to render it intereſting by many difficulties and ſolutions. The warriors inducing Rinaldo to liſten to the expoſtulations of Armida is an article ſtill more unfortunate. It was their part to hurry him off; his to delay.

The circumſtance, in the next book, of the Soldan of Egypt giving the command of his vaſt forces to a lieutenant is very ill imagined. It's being conformable to hiſtory were no excuſe. Had the ſoldan led them himſelf, and [Page 469] fought himſelf with Godfrey, and fallen by his hand, more grandeur and more intereſt would have accrued to the cataſtrophe of this immortal poem. Not to mention that a lieutenant was an improper perſonage to be the commander of ſo many auxiliary kings.

THE incidents in the Eighteenth Canto are, as uſual with Taſſo, very well ordered. The ſcenes in the next are an exquiſite relief from the repetition of general battles which is ſo apt to diſguſt. Erminia's meeting with Tancred is moſt artfully contrived, and wrought up to no mean ſhare of pathos. The adventures of Vafrino have all that intereſt which extreme danger, ſuch as muſt always attend the moſt diſhonourable office of a ſpy, never fail to raiſe.

IN the Twentieth and Laſt Book Taſſo hath drawn from Hiſtory the moſt grand and intereſting cataſtrophe of any epic poem in the world without exception. The city of Jeruſalem is taken, the ſepulchre of Chriſt freed, in the Eighteenth Book. What then remained? Hiſtory tells us that, four or five [Page 470] days after the taking the holy city, the vaſt forces of the ſultan of Egypt, amounting to near 100,000 infantry, and 40,000 horſe, came to aſſail the victors now weakened by repeated conflicts to about 12,000 men if I remember right. Victory however declared in favour of the Chriſtians, with a ſlaughter of the enemy almoſt unparalleled. What a glorious cataſtrophe! A cataſtrophe at the ſame time abſolutely neceſſary to fulfil the event. Taſſo hath availed himſelf of it, as indeed a writer of half his talents muſt have done. It hath already been remarked that it might have been heightened; but, as it ſtands, I do not heſitate to pronounce it the grandeſt cloſe that an epic poem can poſſibly have.

NOT to intrude too much on your patience, the further conſideration of this wonderful poem ſhall be deferred till a future occaſion.

[Page 471]

THE hypocriſy you laugh at is very common. Literature hath its hypocriſies as well as religion. That which you mention, in terms of juſt deriſion, is one of the moſt frequent, where a man who is ſenſible that he hath ſtudied a branch of ſcience much, and knows the value of his opinions concerning it, yet pretends to ſubmit, with modeſt deference, to the ſentiments of people whoſe ignorance he knows to conviction. Can any hypocriſy be more groſs? Were it not much more manly to aſſume that noble confidentia ſui, one of the beſt of the ancient virtues, the parent of many other virtues, but now unknown to us, or unknown as a virtue? Is ſincerity, that nobleſt attribute of the moral character of man, to be ſacrificed on the altar of falſe modeſty?

FROM principles of the ſame hypocriſy we often ſee opinions contrary to truth, but which happen to be affirmed by writers of eſtabliſhed [Page 472] reputation, aſſented to in ſilence by others of equal talents, who know their falſity, but dare not ſet their judgment againſt that of authors of celebrity; not from modeſty, for that man cannot be found who will confeſs the mind of another to be ſuperior to his own, but from baſe hypocriſy of modeſty. Independent of this vice of ſimulation, Science would advance in the world with double rapidity. Names, and pretended deference to them, have been the great barriers in every age that have confined knowlege to half its proper bounds.

A YET more glaring literary hypocriſy is that by which an ignorant man aſſumes the garb of ſcience; as the worſt hypocriſy in the moral world is that by which a vicious man aſſumes the maſk of religion. In the latter a hypocrite may often be diſcovered by puſhing his ſimulation too far; and in the like manner a literary impoſtor is apt, not to diſplay too much learning, for he hath got none; but, to uſe the character of a learned man in the extreme. He ſhakes his head at the moſt trivial queſtion, and, with many hems and ha's, ſays it is a difficult point, a very difficult point indeed, [Page 473] and would require very mature examination. When any perſon preſent ſays the point is very eaſy, takes it in hand, and ſolves it to the ſatisfaction of every body, the hypocrite of learning ſhakes his head, ſays that ſolution is trivial; and perhaps is polite enough to hint that it equals the underſtanding of the audience; but that he upon proper occaſion, and to a learned company, could have given a much more profound account of the matter.

YOU cannot imagine, my dear friend, what an important thing a ſhake of the head is. It makes a man look ſo wiſe! I have known people get fame, pleaſure, opulence, only by ſhaking their heads; tho, God knows, to uſe a trite witticiſm, there was nothing in them. A ſhake of the head from an ignorant man is learning; from a mean man, greatneſs; from a dull man, wit; from a ſtupid man, genius; from a poor man, wealth; from a fool, wiſdom. I wonder no wit ſhould have written a treatiſe On the art of ſhaking the head. It were ſurely capable of much illuſtration; and no writer need be aſhamed of handling it, when he hath the example of Mr. Addiſon before [Page 474] him, who hath written at ſome length On the art of furling the fan, an inſtrument of equal ventoſity. But, leaſt you ſhould be ſhaking your head at me all this while, I ſhall here cloſe my Letter.

[Page 475]

I HAVE heard it ſeriouſly debated in converſation that it is impoſſible for any writer to obtain a falſe fame, and that celebrity muſt ever be the fruit of ſome proportion able merit. This opinion, as falſe as it is plauſible, deſerves a confutation at ſome length from its important conſequences to the intereſts of literature.

THE fame of a good writer reſembles the deſcent of a pyramid, moſt minute at firſt, but ſwelling to an enormous baſe, which ſtands firm as the earth, and defies every tempeſt, and even the ſilent waſte of time. Falſe fame reſembles the pyramid likewiſe in every thing but its durability; but in another view, for it riſes from a broad baſe, and tapers to nothing. Hence that applauſe, which is wide at firſt, is very ſeldom laſting; and durable reputation almoſt always ſprings from very minute beginnings.

[Page 476] A good writer is ſeldom or never popular at firſt. His ideas are ſo much out of the common line, that he is not underſtood, much leſs taſted, by the mob of his day. True judges, men of real ſcience, are always his firſt admirers from congeniality of mind; and his fame, when ſwelled to a vaſt river, is yet of the utmoſt purity, becauſe its ſcources are clear. The applauſe of true judges is the only living fame which a writer of true taſte can reliſh. When popular acclamation riſes around him, he will be ready to ſay; with that ancient Greek, upon hearing an unexpected roar of praiſe from the populace, whom he was addreſſing; Have I ſaid a fooliſh thiug?

THE opinion of men of learning always leads the mob, when it hath had a proper period to operate: the opinion of the mob is ſeldom or never that of men of learning; and in no inſtance can lead it.

THE fame of the moſt ſuperlative writers is, even after thouſands of years, always confined to ſuperior minds: the popular acclaim is only an unmeaning echo of it. Du Bos hath well [Page 477] obſerved that the true reputation of Homer is at this day confined to thoſe who can read and admire him in the original; perhaps amounting to two hundred perſons in the world: his other pretended admirers diſgrace his genuine fame, and are the mere babbling echoes of the former.

THE like may be ſaid of every ſuperlative writer. Is Pindar, is Tacitus the minion of the populace? Our own Milton, our Shakſpere univerſal as he is, are not underſtood, or the leaſt reliſhed, by one perſon in a thouſand who echo their celebrity with open mouth. Were the genuine ſentiments of the million enquired into, it would be diſcovered that any faſhionable bauble of the diurnal kind is of far more eſtimation, in their ſight, that the immortal labours of theſe glorious writers. What is the uſe of diamonds to them? Can they eat them? No, with the cock in the fable, grains of corn were better; and where corn is not to be had, even chaff.

BUT before the breeze of time that chaff vaniſhes: while diamonds remain and blaze to eternity.

[Page 478] MEN of ſuperior talents have it not in their power to adjuſt the reputation of a work at once. They muſt have time to conſider it. Perhaps the author is known to many of them; and they tremble at the ſuſpicion of partiality. Perhaps they are careleſs; perhaps they are invidious; perhaps they are foes of the author.

MEANWHILE a work of real merit is, ſure to be neglected, for where ſhall the cattle go when there is no guide? The little craft are coaſting round their own paltry ſhores, and know not that a new world is diſcovered. If they did, how ſhall they ſail to it, without powers, and without a compaſs? The ſmall fiſhes they find at home are enough for them; they leave the exploration of the treaſures of other climates to thoſe who are in poſſeſſion of ſuperior means of navigation.

THE fame of few writers, whoſe works are not of a more temporary kind, can be eſtimated in the century in which they live. One hundred years of purgatory may with great juſtice be looked, upon as aſſigned to moſt authors before they paſs to paradiſe or damnation.

[Page 479] ROUSSE AU I think obſerves that the path to true fame, like that to the temple of virtue, is moſt arduous and difficult: and it may be added that, where this difficulty is not found, it is much to be doubted that the path is not the true one.

I KNOW not however if living fame which is almoſt always falſe, be not of more real moment to any writer, or artiſt, than poſthumous and eternal. The latter will never buy him a great coat; whereas the former heaps wealth and honours upon his happy head. Living fame is ſweet muſic to the ears, tho one were even certain that it will die with us; poſthumous fame is unenjoyable by us, is of no exiſtence to us. The falſe preſcience of it affords high ſatiſfaction to the vain-glorious fool; but the true preſcience of it ſlightly affects the great and the wiſe.

IT hath already been obſerved that legitimate celebrity is only to be found in the mouths of true judges, who are ſully as rare as good writers; in ſo much that for fifty years after Milton's Comus was publiſhed, nobody knew [Page 480] its worth but Sir Henry Wotton. The delay which true judges always adopt in pronouncing upon ſuperior works, hath alſo been ſtated. The public in the mean time, led by caprice or faſhion, beſtow their applauſe, which they ought carefully to hoard for real merit, upon every gewgaw that comes in their way. Hence the number of falſe reputations is almoſt infinite; and in proportion to the true about one thouſand to one.

ANY perſon who-doubts if fame may ever be ſurreptitiouſly acquired, need only to look into the title pages, and cotemporary productions, of a thouſand works of the laſt and preſent century, In the firſt he will ſee ſometimes the Twelfth edition of ſome poetical or other work which diſgraces the human mind: in the laſt he will obſerve the vain and tranſitory praiſes beſtowed on it by writers of equal minuteneſs of intellect. For one inſtance in a thouſand of theſe facts, Cotton's Virgil Traveſtie had Fourteen editions, Milton's Poems hardly two; and ſee the praiſes of the matchleſs Orinda's poems in Cowley, and others. Who was ſhe? Can there be a ſtronger illuſtration of [Page 481] my poſition, that falſe reputations actually exiſt? Nay I know that I could from this very century muſter up complete evidences of my poſition, that they ſurpaſs the true in the proportion of at leaſt one thouſand to one.

I KNOW not how it is, but it is certainly a more favourable ſymptom of a work to have enemies at firſt, than admirers. The ingenious author of the Book De l' Eſprit, a work in which great talents are exerted to ſupport bad principles, obſerves with truth that ſuperiority is ſure to create enemies, The maxim of moſt people is that of the Epheſians, If any one excells among us, let him go and excell elſewhere. M. Helvetius hath aptly diſtinguiſhed the eſteem profeſſed for writers of repute into two ſorts; an eſteem of prejudice, taken up upon the word of others, and an eſteem of ſentiment. The laſt I call the only foundation of true fame, when it is the ſentiment of a ſuperior ſoul. He marks Corneille as a writer whoſe eſteem ſtands wholly upon prejudice, and not ſentiment.

[Page 482] WHEN I mention popular fame, as of no account in forming our judgement of the worth of a modern writer, I do not mean to ſpeak but of works out of the common claſs; works that give new forms to human talents. Works of themſelves merely popular, as novels, and the like, need not ſtand the teſt of their century before their fame may be called permanent. A table of periods that muſt paſs over different works, before the ſtamp of laſting worth is put upon them, might be curious. Let us try it. Suppoſe:
Epic poetry 100 years.
Dramatic poetry 50 years.
Hiſtory 100 years.
Lyric poetry 100 years.
Novels 50 years.
Satiric poetry 20 years
Didactic poetry 20 years
Philoſophy, Natural 2000 years
Moral 10 years.
Criticiſm 100 years.
Miſcellanies 50 years.
Panegyrics 1 hour.
Paſtoral poetry 5 minutes

[Page 483] THE reaſon of the ſhort ſpace allowed for the two laſt, is their putreſcent quality; which makes it not ſafe to keep them long before they are eaten.

[Page 484]

THE examination of the merits of Taſſo's Geruſalemme ſhall now, with your permiſſion, be concluded. The Fable, with its Incidents, hath been the ſubject of former diſcuſſion: there now remain the Characters; the Language; the Particular Beauties. All which ſhall be illuſtrated with as much brevity as poſſible.

TO begin then with the Characters: Taſſo yields only to Homer for the variety of his perſons. Of their ſtrength I cannot ſay ſo much: moſt of the characters in the Geruſalemme might certainly, with much eaſe, have permitted great heightening of additional colours. His warriors are by no means ill diverſified; Rinaldo is a moſt diſtinct perſonage from Tancred, or Godfrey: and the like may with juſtice be ſaid of his other warriors. But to be a little more explicit.

[Page 485] GODFREY, the chief commander, is deſcribed as a character of the firſt value: prudent with courage; pious with generoſity. Perhaps it may be juſtly ſaid that he is too perfect. Homer, the ſecretary of Nature, draws no perfect characters. Gravina with great ingenuity and truth obſerves that he almoſt alone of all writers paints the true manners and natural paſſions of men as they are. As in life itſelf, his virtuous characters have vice, and the vicious virtue. A writer without experience thinks the more perfect his characters are in vice or virtue, the more perfect they are in poetry. The reverſe is the truth. Mixt characters are alone fit for the purpoſes of fable. Milton knew this ſo well that he paints Satan himſelf as a dubious character.

RINALDO, perhaps the next in importance, is an admirable character, and new to epic poetry. His extreme youth, for, if I remember right, he is not eighteen at the period of the poem, makes his part extremely intereſting. He is as different from Achilles as may be; tho the general idea of his part in the poem is evidently hinted by Homer.

[Page 486] TANCRED again is a moſt diſtinct perſonage from any other in the poem, tho to deduce the marks of diſtinction might require more room than we can now ſpare.

THE old warrior RAYMOND hath nothing to do with Neſtor. His old age makes his part fully as intereſting, as the youth of Rinaldo doth his.

THE hermit PETER is a very fine and new perſonage; and might have given occaſion for admirable painting, had Taſſo but known how to avail himſelf of his fable to the utmoſt.

DUDON, GUELFO, SUENO, VAFRINO, and others, are all characters which at leaſt atone for their want of ſtrength by their variety. And the like may juſtly be ſaid even of the moſt inferior characters in the poem. So much for the Chriſtian perſons.

IF we paſs to the Mahometan we ſhall find equal variety with much more ſtrength. Taſſo ſeems to have thought that the Chriſtian ſyſtem prevented any deep ſhades of diſcrimination [Page 487] being thrown round a character; while the Mahometan, more indulgent to human frailty, left ample ſcope for the natural man to ſhew himſelf. In this view ALADIN, SOLIMAN, ALTAMORE, ISMENO, ARGANTES, EMIRENO, TISIPHERNES, are all characters of as much ſtrength as variety.

THAT of Soliman, the dethroned king of the Turks of Aſia Minor, combating againſt the Chriſtians who had dethroned him, is particularly ſtrong, new, and intereſting.

THE part of ISMENO, the Magician, is no leſs ſtrong and new to epic poetry. Taſſo hath in this, and other parts of his poem, admirably availed himſelf of the ſyſtem of the middle ages, and of chivalry, to diverſify his machinery. Magic is certainly the moſt fit for the purpoſes of poetry of any ſupernatural aſſiſtance in the world. Nothing is ſo delightful to the imagination; and the imagination is the ſole judge of poetry.

OF the Female characters on both ſides I have already ſpoken; but even in their condemnation muſt confeſs that they have a fine variety.

[Page 488] THE LANGUAGE of the Geruſalemme hath in general all that exquiſite melody which is the grand characteriſtic of the Italian tongue. It hath not the ſimplicity of Homer, becauſe it was not written 2500 years ago; and they who look for pears upon an elm-tree will, as Sancho obſerves, only find ſore eyes, Jeſting apart, nothing can well be more abſurd and ridiculous, than to eſtimate one writer's language, or other talents, by compariſon with thoſe of another. Nature knows no compariſons. Taſſo's language may boldly be pronounced as perfect in its kind as that of Homer. The firſt is a monarch in laced cloths; the latter a monarch in plain. Is the firſt leſs a king than the other?

THE language of Taſſo I allow to be figurative; but contend that it is, with all its exquiſite figures, much more correct, and to me more pleaſing, than the elegant negligence of Arioſto. The dreſs of the Geruſalemme is moſt artfully inwoven, but it is inwoven with gold; and, with all its richneſs, is yet as eaſy and becoming as the ſimple attire of ſome other poems. Every reader muſt allow Milton's ſtyle to be much more inverted and figurative than [Page 489] that of Taſſo: yet this hath never been laid to Milton's charge. So mad is prejudice!

THE ſtanza uſed by Taſſo muſt be allowed melodious, but its melody is uniform: and uniformity, the very worſt fault verſification can have, is only to be avoided by uſing blank verſe. It is therefore to be wiſhed that he had followed Triſſino, and not Arioſto, in his verſification. The queſtion with regard to blank verſe and rime is reducible to this propoſition, Is pleaſure the greater for being diverſified?

TASSO'S ſtanza hath diſadvantages: it obliges the writer thrice to uſe the ſame rimes; and to adopt tautology, or unneceſſary addition, that his ſtanza may be completed without paſſing to another ſubject. It hath alſo advantages: the ſet rimes of themſelves often introduce thoughts that would not otherwiſe have ariſen: the completion of the ſtanza will often occaſion more minute deſcription, one of the chief qualities of poetry.

TO conſider the language of Taſſo at more length were inconſiſtent with my preſent purpoſe. It remains to point out a very few of the PARTICULAR BEAUTIES of the poem.

[Page 490] IN Canto I. this deſcription of the young Rinaldo is delicate:

Ma il fanciullo Rinaldo è ſovra queſti
E ſovra quanti in moſtra eran condutti.
Dolcemente feroce alzar vedreſti
La regal fronte, e in lui mirar ſol tutti
L' eta precorſe e la ſperanza; e preſti
Pareano i fior quando n' uſciro i frutti.
S'el miri fulminar ne l' arme, avvolto
Marte lo ſtimi, Amor, ſe ſcopre il volto.
This ſimile is fine.
Non e ſi grato a i caldi giorni il tuono,
Che ſperanza di pioggia al mondo apporte,
Come fu caro a le feroci genti
L' altero ſuon de bellici inſtrumenti.
No deſcription can ſurpaſs this of the army on their march.
In tanto it Sol, che da celeſti campi
Va piu ſempre avanzando, e in alto aſcende,
L' arme percote, e ne trae fiamme e lampi
Tremuli e chiari, onde le viſte offende,
L' aria par di faville intorno avvampi,
E quaſi d' alto incendio in forma ſplende.
E co fieri nitriti il ſuono accorda
Del ferro ſcoſſo, e le campagne aſſordo.
[Page 491] This maxim is a.moſt juſt one:
E l' aſpettar del male e mal peggiore
Forſe, che non parebbe il mal preſente.
In the II. Book, this brief deſcription of a timid lover well deſerves all the admiration it hath gained: ‘Brama aſſai, poco ſpera, a nulla chiede.’ In the next ſtanza ſave one this line, ‘Le negligenze ſue ſono artifici,’ in one of the moſt happy antitheſes ever written.

Such lines as, ‘Pur maggior ſente il duol, per chi non duolſe;’ and, ‘L'alte non temo, e l' umili non ſdegno;’ are worth whole pages of common poetry. Sentimental axiomatic beauties are certainly the moft difficult of any of the ſmaller graces of poetry,. and ought to be highly valued. Taſſo is full of them. Take two more from the ſame Canto.

Gran fabbro di calunnie adorne in modi
Novi, the ſono accuſe, e pajon lodi.
Ma verace valor, benche negletto
E di ſe ſteſſo a ſe fregio aſſai chiaro.
[Page 492] In the III. Canto this ſimile of the Chriſtian army's joy upon the firſt ſight of Jeruſalem muſt not be omitted.
Coſi di naviganti audace ſtuolo
Che nuova a ricercar eſtranio lido,
E in mar dubbioſo, e ſotto ignoto polo,
Provi l' onde fallaci e'l vento infido;
S'al fin diſcopre il diſiato ſuolo,
Lo ſaluta da lunge in lieto grido:
E l'uno al l' altro il moſtra; e in tanto obblia
La noja e'l mal de la paſſata via.
This deſcription of the appearance of the Chriſtian hoſt from the towers of Jeruſalem is wonderful.
Da la cittade in tanto un, ch 'a le guarda
Sta d' alta torre, e ſcopre i monti e i campi,
Cola giuſo la polve alzarſi guarda,
Si che par the gran nube in aria ſtampi:
Par che baleni quella nube e arda,
Co [...]e di fiamme gravida e di lampi:
Poi lo ſplendor de lucidi metalli
Scerne, e diſtingue gli uomini e i cavalli.
The ſudden diſcovery of Clorinda, in her combat with Tancredo, may with juſtice be ranked among the beauties of the poem. [Page 493]
E le chiome dorate at vento ſparſe,
Giovane donna in mezzo 'l campo apparſe.
And
Lampeggiar gli occhi e folgorar gli ſ [...]uardi;
Dolci ne l'ira, or che ſarian nel riſo?
with others, are ſtrokes which, the minute, ſpeak the maſter.
THE death of Dudon is worthy of Taſſo.
Gli* apri tre volte, e i dolci rai del celo
Cerco fruire, e ſovra un braccio alzarſ;
E tre volte ricadde, e foſco velo
Gli occhi adombro, che ſtanchi al fin ſerarſi:
Si diſſolvono i membri, e'l mortal gelo
Irrigiditi, e di ſudor gli ha ſparſi.

IN Canto IV. Satan's ſpeech is very elquent; and it may here be obſerved, of all the peeches in the Geruſalemme, that they are of [...]he very firſt eloquence, finely adapted to the characters and the occaſions: they may therefore [...]e juſtly regarded as ſome of the moſt ſtriking beauties of the poem.

THIS ſentiment in Satan's ſpeech i ſublime, and Miltonic.

Ebbero i piu felici allor vittoria;
Rimaſe a noi d' invitto ardir la glora.

[Page 494] THE deſcription of Armida is exquiſitely beautiful. The forté of Taſſo is beauty; that of Miltor ſublimity.

BUT [...] proceed even at this rate would prolong thi [...] letter too much, you will therefore excuſe me if I haſten to a cloſe; and enumerate any other particular graces of this poem as briefly as poſſible. Were the whole beauties of the Geruſalemme narrated, a vaſt volume, and n [...] a letter, ought to be the vehicle.

TA [...]SO hath often made excellent uſe of ancientapophthegms, as in this inſtance of a thouſand

I gradi primi
In meritar, che conſeguir, deſio.
C. V.
He is likewiſe full of political wiſdom: take this a [...]iom for another inſtance of a thouſand.
Ce ſpeſſo avvien che, ne maggior perigli,
Soo i piu audaci gli ottimi conſigli.

THEE reproaches made by Tancred to Argante a [...]e moſt ſpirited, and much in Homer's ſtyle.

Faſſi innanzi gridando: Anima vile,
Ch' arcor ne le vittorie infame ſei, &c.
C. VI.
[Page 495] This image in ſtanza 92. of the ſame Canto is admirable. ‘Gode Amor, ch' e preſente, e tra ſe ride.’

IN Canto VII. Tancred's adventure at the Caſtle of Armida is a fine inſtance of the advantages which the ſyſtem of chivalry confers on poetry. The battle of old Raimond with Argante is extremely intereſting: this compariſon of Argante, almoſt diſarmed and vanquiſhed, is admirable:

E par ſenza governo, in mar turbato,
Rotte vele, e antenne, eccelſa nave.
From Canto VIII. take this inſtance of a fine climax;
Ch' aneor v'e chi ſoſpetti, e che di frodo
Goffredo accuſi, e chi le accuſe approve?
and from the next Canto this yet finer climax of the comparative kind. He ſpeaks of the ſoldan Soliman.
Fiume, ch' arbori inſieme, a caſe ſvella;
Folgore, the le torri abbatta, ed arda;
Terremoto, che'l mondo empia d' orrore;
Son picciole ſembianze al ſuo furore.

[Page 496] This couplet, on the death of a young warrior, is perhaps the moſt exquiſitely beautiful to be found in poetry. L' alma laſcio meſta

L'aure ſoavi de la vita, e i giorni
De la tenera eta, lieti e adorni.

IN the XI. Canto this circumſtance, deſcriptive of the decline of a battle toward evening, is very pictureſque.

‘E de le trombe iſteſſe il ſuono langue.’

THE tears of Aladin in Canto XII. almoſt equal thoſe of Satan in Paradiſe Loſt, Book I. The firſt are as ſtrong and unexpected marks of extreme joy, as the latter of uttermoſt deſpair:

Sollevo il re le palme, e un lieto pianto
Giu per le creſpe guancie a lui cadette: &c.
The addreſs to Night in the ſame Canto hath been juſtly admired.

IN Book XIII. the horrible ſounds that iſſue from the inchanted foreſt are deſcribed with great ſtrength of fancy.

Eſce all' or de la ſelva un ſuon repente,
Che par rimbombo di terren che treme.
[Page 497] E'l mormorar de gli auſtri in lui ſi ſence,
E'l pianto d' onda, the fra ſcogli geme.
Come rugge it leon, fiſchia il ſerpente;
Come urla il lupo, e come l' orſo freme,
V'odi; e v'odi le trombe, e v'odi il tuono:
Tanti e ſi fatti ſuoni eſprime un ſuono.
A variation of the ſame ſound in Stan. 40. is alike dreadful to the imagination:
E trarne un ſuon, che flebile concento
Par d'umani ſoſpiri, e di ſingulti:
E un non ſo che confuſo inſtilla al core
Di pieta, di ſpavento, e di dolore.
The gate of dreams in Canto XIV. ſurpaſſes the two of Homer ſo poorly copied, as uſual, by Virgil.
Non lunge a l'auree porte, ond' eſce il Sole,
E chriſtalina porta in oriente;
Che per coſtume innanzi aprir ſi ſuole,
Che ſi diſchiuda l'uſcio al di naſcente.
Da queſta eſcono i ſogni, i quai Dio vuole
Mander per grazia a pura e caſta mente.
Da queſta or quel, ch' al pic Buglion diſcende,
L'ali dorate inverſo lui diſtende.
In Book XV. the ſimile of the Dove's neck is exquiſite: but to quote ſimiles were endleſs, for [Page 498] I know not one in the poem that is not ſuperlative in its kind. The deſcription of the ſailing in Stan. 8.9. muſt delight every reader. The compariſons in Stan. 60. are ſo fine as to demand particular remark, in ſpite of the general praiſe of Taſſo's ſimiles which I have juſt expreſſed.

THE reproaches of Armida to Rinaldo in Canto XVI. are of exquiſite ſpirit:

Vattene pur crudel, con quella pace
Che laſci a me; vattene iniquo omai.
Me toſto ignudo ſpirto ombra ſeguace
Indiviſibilmente a tergo avrai:
Nova furia co ſerpi e con la face
Tanto t'agitero quanto t'amai. &c

THIS ſtroke, tho minute, ſpeaks the maſter.

Mille affetti in un guardo appajon miſli.

Cant. XVIII.

TASSO very often attains the moral axiomatic ſublime: here is another inſtance from Book XIX.

Ov'e, Signor, la tua virtute antica?
(Diſſe il Soldan tutto crucciſo all' ora)
Tolgaci i regni pur ſorte nemica:—
Che'l regal pregio e noſtro, e'n not dimora.
[Page 499] and yet another inſtance from the ſame Canto:
Preſe i nemici han ſol le mura e i tetti,
E'l vulgo umil, non la cittade, han preſa:
Che nel capo del Re, ne voſtri petti,
Ne le man voſtre, e la citta compreſa.

IN the Laſt Book the deſcription of Godfrey's appearance before the deciſive battle is wonderful.

Vaſſene e tale e in viſta il ſommo Duce,
Ch' altri certa vittoria indi preſume:
Novo favor del Cielo in lui riluce,
E'l fa grande e auguſto oltra il coſtume.
Gli empie d'onor la faccia, e vi riduce
Di giovinezza il bel purpureo lume:
E ne l'atto de gli occhi e de le membra
Altro che mortal coſa egli raſſembra.

These minute touches are excellent:

E di mezzo la tema eſce il dilletto.
E nel cadere egli ode
Dar gridendo i nemici al colpo lode.
La via d'onor de la ſalute e via.

NOTHING but the contracted limits of a Letter can excuſe my making ſo diminutive a ſelection of beauties from a performance ſo rich [Page 500] in them. Indeed you will eaſily perceive that my aim, thro the whole, hath been rather to avoid noticing the innumerable beautiful paſſages that preſented themſelves, than to ſearch for them, as a critic of leſs contracted province ought to do.

[Page 501]
LORD BACON, in his Eſſays, has given us what he calls the true marſhalling of the degrees of ſovereign honour in the following order.
  • I. Founders of ſtates, as Romulus, &c.
  • II. Lawgivers as Lycurgus, Solon, &c.
  • III. Deliverers of their country.
  • IV. Enlargers and Defenders of their country, and dominion.
  • V. Fathers of their country; as juſt kings and rulers.

THE names of ſeveral great men whom he claſſes under theſe heads I cannot approve: for inſtance in the I. he claſſes Cyrus, Caeſar, Ottoman. In the III. Auguſtus Caeſar, Veſpaſian, Aurelian, Theodoric, our Henry VII, and Henry IV of France. He ſeems to forget that he might have had from Greece immaculate examples of all his ranks of celebrity. However, the degrees cannot be objected to in any point, but this, that he ought to have placed his IId rank firſt; for it is certainly a more difficult, and a more glorious, work to give laws to a [Page 502] ſtate, than to found it. The latter is a work of chance; the former of labour, and profoundeſt ſcience of every kind.

I HAVE often thought that it might be a matter of ſome curioſity, not to ſay importance, to attempt a ſimilar ſcale of literary and ſcientific fame. The great branches of human art and ſcience are, if I remember right,
  • I. Natural and Moral Philoſophy.
  • II. Poetry.
  • III. Hiſtory.
  • IV. Painting.
  • V. Muſic.
  • VI. Architecture.
  • VII. Sculpture.
  • VIII. Criticiſm, and other leſſer kinds of proſe writing.
There is an infinite number of more minute diſcriminations of ſcience; but, upon examination, we ſhall find that true celebrity has only ſprung from one or other of theſe greater ſources, or their diviſions. The greater ſources are formed from a numerous variety of ſprings, upon any of which if a candidate's bark is properly launched, he may be carried into the univerſal ocean of fame with ſwelling ſails. For example; in Natural Philoſophy are contained Medicine, Chemiſtry, Botany, Aſtronomy, Geometry, &c. eminence in any of which is a ſure path to laſting reputation: and the like is applicable to the other larger diviſions.

[Page 503] COMMON ſenſe would lead us to think that the arts and ſciences, which are of moſt utility to man, ought to be the higheſt objects of his eſteem. In this view to determine the proportion of legitimate applauſe, which a ſuperlative performance of any kind ought to have, we would only need to claſs it according to its real utility. Experience, however, is againſt this: for a capital poet or painter hath always larger and more laſting fame, than an inventor of the moſt uſeful art. This is eaſily accounted for. The inventor of an uſeful art is ſoon forgotten, becauſe any art that is merely uſeful ceaſes almoſt with its invention to raiſe any admiration. Its daily uſe of itſelf precludes all gratitude to the inventor. Men, in their ingratitude, inſtead of wondering at the inventtion, only wonder why the art was not diſcovered before. Beſides, the moſt uſeful art, if of trivial uſe, tho it may require the utmoſt power of mind to form the firſt idea of it, yet can be improved by almoſt every body: and theſe additional improvements totally ſtifle the firſt fame of the inventor. Not to mention that the name of the artiſt never appears on products of uſeful art, nor do their products [Page 504] themſelves laſt, how then can his fame be preſerved? If it is, it muſt be in writing, the only immortal art we know: but he who preſerves the fame of others in writing of any kind is certainly the more immediate heir of fame than thoſe whoſe names he preſerves. Hence authors themſelves are the ſureſt poſſeſſors of celebrity; and, next to them, thoſe whom they condeſcend to applaud. Hence we ſhould know nothing of the ancient painters, muſicians, and other artiſts, did not we read of them in ancient volumes. Hence Homer will always inherit more renown than the inventor of the windmill; tho I ſuſpect a rigid philoſopher would decide, that the reputation of the latter ought to ſtand higheſt, becauſe he deſerves beſt of mankind.

IT is from facts, then, and not from theory, that we ſhould form an eſtimate of the degrees of ſcientific fame. One who accurately weighs the eſtimation, in which the reſpective arts and ſciences are held by men of erudition, who are their only genuine judges, will find the ſcale to be much of this tenor.

  • I. Epic Poetry.
  • II. Dramatic Poetry.
  • III. Moral Philoſophy.
  • IV. Natural Philoſophy in general.
  • V. Hiſtory.
  • VI. Lyric Poetry.
  • VII. Medicine.
  • VIII. Smaller epic poetry, or tale writing.
  • IX. Architecture.
  • X. Painting.
  • XI. Muſic.
  • XII. Sculpture.
  • XIII. Fables.
  • XIV. Novels.
  • XV. Satiric Poetry.
  • XVI. Didactic Poetry.
  • XVII. Criticiſm, and other ſmall proſe writing.
  • XVIII. Mathematics.
  • XIX. Aſtronomy.
  • XX. Geometry. Chronology. Geography.

THE other arts, if I rightly recollect, are ſo minute that they form a galaxy of ſtars, in which no difference of magnitude appears to the eye.

[Page 506]

NOTHING can be more juſt than your ſtrictures on the folly and preſumption of moſs critics. Criticiſm, which is indeed only the lady's maid of ability, like all thoſe of that deſcription, is fond of aping her miſtreſs; dreſſes herſelf in her caſt cloths, and looks upon herſelf as being as good as her lady. Criticiſm is, at beſt, only the pilot of Genius; only knows ſhores already explored, with the face of the coaſt, and ſoundings: when the captain commands the veſſel upon an expedition to undiſcovered iſles, this poor pilot condemns his raſhneſs with bitter exclamations, and deſpair of ſafety; while the captain is obliged to take the helm himſelf, attend to every rock and ſhoal, and conduct his daring ſhip into a port, from which he is to return with treaſures yet unknown. When he hath done this, with a ſafety which valour always enſures, you cannot imagine how proud Mr. Pilot is. Like the [Page 507] fly upon the coach-wheel it was he, and he alone, whoſe cautious conduct guided the veſſel into harbour. Now that he knows the road, he can inſtruct others, and does it with all the inſolence of advice. But his inſtructions are always of the timid kind, and analogous to his own littleneſs of intellect. He derives from the ſucceſs of this expedition, not arguments of enterpriſe for others of like adventure, but chilling diſſuaſions and tales of danger; inſomuch that, very much owing to his cowardly information, voyages to new latitudes of art are very rare; and the man who attempts them with ſucceſs may well be pronounced to have talents ſuperior to thoſe which found a ſtate, or ſhake a potent empire to its inmoſt foundations.

CRITICISM may be defined to be, That ſcience by which we are taught to form proper judgements of the merits, and defects, of the other arts and ſciences. I have called Criticiſm a ſcience, and not an art, becauſe it is theoretical and not practical; becauſe there can be no art where there is no room for invention: becauſe Criticiſm is merely a ſcience, [Page 508] and reſts ſolely upon knowlege in the points of which it treats; and that knowlege, if you will, is not even a ſcience per ſe, but ariſes from the mental exertion of others; yet does not aſcend to analogy like other human ſciences. For inſtance; were a critic to judge from analogy that, becauſe the beginning of the Iliad is ſimple, that of every epic poem ought to be ſo, he would judge wrong; for this reaſon that a man of genius, his maſter, would tell him that there ought to be no analogy in poetry, and that the ſimplicity of Homer's beginning is a fault, not a beauty, for the great point of opening an epic poem is to raiſe the very utmoſt expectation; and, allowing it a beauty, it is a beauty to be avoided by other writers, becauſe any appearance of imitation never fails to diſguſt a ſuperior judge.

CRITICISM, if I miſtake not, originated with Ariſtotle, who was as ſond of ſubduing the mental world, as his pupil Alexander was of conquering the habitable. After that this Ariſtotle, by dint of many a baſe trick and cavil, to be found in Athenaeus, Elian, and other writers of antiquity, had uſurped a tyrannical power [Page 509] over almoſt every branch of ſcience, he was, like his mad diſciple, weeping for other worlds to vanquiſh. After conquering the Earth in his Political and Moral works, he had, upon the air-balloon of preſumption, to uſe a metaphor which ſmells a little of anachroniſm, viſited Mercury in his Topics, the Moon in his Treatiſe on the Soul, Venus in his Natural Hiſtory, Mars in his Treatiſe on Rhetoric, Jupiter in his treatiſe on Heaven, Saturn in his other works. The planet of Poetry, like Herſchel's diſcovery, was then rolling in new radiance thro the waſtes of aether. To it goes Mr. Ariſtotle upon his air balloon, and returning tells us all about it. To drop the allegory, ere it grows. ſtale; to an impartial reader, who is able to judge for himſelf, it muſt be matter of infinite ſurprize how the authority of .Ariſtotle ſhould ever be any thing in poetry. All he hath done is to give a parcel of metaphyſical names, his common trick, to different points of poetry; which points he draws without any invention or addition from Homer and Sophocles. He then ſits down with as much ſatisfaction as that Indian chief, who gets up every morning before ſun-riſe; ſteps to the door of his cabin, [Page 510] marks with his finger the courſe the ſun is to purſue in his day's journey, which he always takes care ſhall be the uſual one; and then returns in the glory of having given his directions to the ſun his brother.

THE only thing Ariſtotle did in criticiſm was to give ſome names, almoſt as unentelligible as that entelecheia which hath cracked the brains of all his commentators, to different articles. He ſeems only to have ſtrutted into the theatre of poetry to drop the curtain of obſcurity over the ſcene of nature; a demerit which the meaneſt menial belonging to the houſe could have had ſufficient ability to incur the blame of as well as himſelf. Perhaps you will think this cenſure of Ariſtotle ſevere, but do not imagine it ſingular: the awful ſhades of Vittorius, Caſtelvetro, Gravina, the two laſt names in criticiſm ſuperior to that of Ariſtotle, riſe around me in its defence.

THIS mention of the earlieſt ancient critic might induce a review of the other critical writers of antiquity, by which indeed we ſhould be better enabled to judge of the nature of criticiſm, [Page 511] than by theoretic reaſoning. But to give this at proper length would require other bounds, and deeper diſquiſition than the brief ſtyle of a letter will authoriſe. The other critics of antiquity you know are Dionyſius of Halicarnaſſus; the author of the treatiſe under the name of Demetrius Phalereus; Hermogenes; Longinus; among the Greeks:—and among the Latins inſtar omnium, Quintilian, the only critic who ever deſerved the name. To the three firſt may with juſtice be applied the noted diſtich,

Turpe eſt diſſciles habere nugas:
Stultus et labor eſt ineptiarum.
Of Longinus the fourth I ſhall only repeat the juſt verdict of an Italian critic of the firſt repute; namely, that he wrote on the ſublime in a total ignorance of what it was. His work is in fact more applicable to the beautiful, than to the ſublime; a ſure proof that he knew not what he was writing about. His praiſe of Neptune's horſes leaping, like ſo many fleas in a blanket, is one inſtance of at leaſt twenty of his falſe taſte. If it be ſublime to make the god's ho [...]ſes go ſo far at two, or at three leaps, [Page 512] were it not far more ſo to deſcribe them as leaping the whole ſpace at once? Can there be a ſublime beyond which in its kind the moſt common mind may form conceptions? Surely not. Homer's idea is burleſque, and an inſtance of the falſe ſublime, for this plain reaſon, that it preſents a riſible, and not a great image.

TO Quintilian the higheſt reverence is due, as the only ancient writer in proſe who knew how to criticiſe with ſound ſenſe and integrity of mind.

WHAT Quintilian is in proſe, Horace is in poetry. His remarks, for the very term of critical precepts, which I was about to uſe, implies deriſion, are thoſe of a maſter; yet like thoſe of all critics are to be ſtrongly diſcuſſed by the reader's own judgement: and in this view many of them will lie proſtrate on the ground, like ſo many falſe idols before the deity of truth. This will always be the caſe with ſuch criticiſms as have no reaſons alleged in their ſupport; which are ever fully as abſurd in the eyes of a reader of ſcience as the verdict of a judge would be, ere he had lent an ear to the pleadings, and recapitulated the cauſe.

[Page 513] FROM the great rarity of good critics of antiquity thoſe of modern days ought to judge of the extreme difficulty of writing with ſuch propriety as to ſecure the fame of future ages. Juſt criticiſm itſelf is a dangerous province, upon the very boundaries of the empire of ſcience; where, becauſe of its diſtance from the capital, the renown is by no means proportioned to the greatneſs of ability and enterprize abſolutely neceſſary to be exerted. To form a proper critical eſtimation of any work, the Iliad for inſtance, in all its parts would, I muſt aſſert, require talents double the ſize of the author's. For, if they are only equal, the mind of the critic will be homogeneous with that of the poet: he will conſequently be capable of conceiving nothing beyond the work; and his performance will conſiſt only of ſlight efforts of admiration, and of blame; not of ſuch ſuperior critical diſquiſition as may improve the art of which he treats; and which alone forms the eſſence of juſt criticiſm. Suppoſe even that a critic ſhould ariſe with twice the mental powers of Homer, an event that will never happen; ſuppoſe that his work had every perfection of criticiſm, wide views, profound reſearch, [Page 514] boundleſs treaſures of erudition; ſuppoſe it diſplayed a mind, that, like a teleſcope, could magnify diſtant worlds of genius, and ſhew them to the common eye; and at the ſame time, with microſcopic powers, could examine the moſt minute particle of phraſe; what, with all theſe ſupernatural attributes, would be the proportion of his fame? Very ſmall. The man of genius, like the ſun, would dazzle nations; while he a little planet of borrowed light would only glitter in obſcurity.

IN ſpeaking of criticiſm I have avoided treating of ſyſtematic, becauſe the ancients knew no ſuch thing; it was left for the folly of the moderns to frame elements of univerſal criticiſm. An attempt than which nothing can be more abſurd; for if no critic hath yet ariſen able fully to diſcuſs one particular branch of this ſcience, what ſhall we ſay of him who boldly undertakes to examine and illuſtrate the whole?

THE only work that could prove of real advantage in criticiſm would be a ſelection of all the remarks made by illuſtrious writers relative to this ſtudy, accompanied with a modeſt explanation [Page 515] and commentary, ſupported by examples. Such a work would go further to be of genuine utility to the arts and ſciences than any ſpecies of ſyſtem, tho digeſted by a critic of the moſt uncommon powers of mind.

THE END.
Notes
*.
Letter IX.
*.
Letter VIII.
*.
Diviſerunt ſpatia fabularum in partes cubica ratione.
*.
Letter XVI.
*.
This idea is commonly expreſſed by citizen of the world. Is the world a city?
*.
In 1347. See the Life of Rienzi, written by his cotemporary, Tomao Fiortifiocca; firſt printed at Bracciano 1624, 12mo. or the Pere du Cerceau's Hiſtory of his Compiracy, Amſt. 1734.
*.
occhi