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seem to derive no pleasure from these exquisite performances, or who even feel a degree of disa gust or tædium from the perusal of them, the instances are so few, that we make not the least fcruple to neglect and despise their censures, regarding them as men whose minds are not framed for the perception of beauty, and who are totally incompetent to decide upon any questions relative to it. But, in reality, notwithstanding this general coincidence of opinion, when we attempt to analyfe and compare our ideas, we quickly discover, that, while we use the same expressions, there often fubfists a very considerable difference of sentiment, and that every man has erected a standard of taste and beauty in his own mind to which he has a secret reference, though he adopts in common with others the fame vague and indeterminate expreffions of applause and censure. There are also a considerable number of moderns who are generally supposed to have written in the true spirit of the ancients. Some authors of our own nation in particular seem to possess all the graces of composition in an eminent degree: to these indeed an appeal cannot be made with equal confidence as to the ancients themselves, as their literary excellence does not, in the nature of things, admit of the same medium of proof. Nevertheless, the names of some in every department of literature might easily be enumerated, whose writings will, I doubt not, charm through distant ages. Were I called upon to name the author who has most


successfully transfused the beauties of the ancients into his own performances, perhaps I should fix upon Mr. Hume, and I imagine that his superior merit in point of Stile will be as generally acknow. ledged as that of any writer of modern times : but I own, that when I attempt to trace the causes of those emotions of admiration which I involuntarily feel, I am unable to ascertain them with any degree of precision. Not long since, how. ever,

I recollect to have heard a certain mo. dern history of Greece pronounced superior in point of Stile to Hume's History of England. This decision I ventured to controvert, affirming, in behalf of Mr. Hume, that his Stile was remarkably clear and perspicuous; that it united both ease and dignity; that his diction was polite, his periods harmonious, and his metaphors moft happily selected and applied; whereas the Stile of the Grecian historian, though free from gross vulgarisms, and not destitute of harmony, was in other respects wretchedly defective. It is at the fame time inflated and languid; it is insufferably pompous and verbose; and the continual effort, he makes to reach a stately and elevated diction, is frequently so strained, as to carry him to the very borders of burlesque: and the multiplicity of metaphors which he thinks it necessary to use, in order to raise and adorn his Stile, have as little pretension to real elegance as the coloured glass beads with which an Indian chieftain delights to decorate his person. It is very probable, that Durfey's poetry or Bunyan's prose” been


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the subject of debate, we should have found ourselves equally at variance; and yet I doubt not but we were perfectly agreed in the general, that a good Stile consisted of “ proper words in proper places : but the misfortune is, that it seems impossible to determine upon any fixed principles, what are proper words, and where the proper places. I once heard it observed, with no less justice than wit, that Swift's definition of a good Stile conveyed in it as little real meaning as if a telescope were defined to be an instrument consisting of proper glasses in proper places ; and yet Swift knew as well as any man the difference between a good and a bad Stile, and if it was capable of being defined as capable of defining it.

Hume, I think, truly observes, that the first elegant prose in our language was written by Swift. Mr. Melmoth indeed inclines to pay that compliment to Sir William Temple, but with little reason. Sir William Temple is certainly a name to which it is difficult not to be partial. He was at once a man of fashion, a man of letters, and a man of business; and in each of these different characters he excelled. But if we consider him merely as a model of elegant composition, he is by no means entitled to the encomiums of so able a critic as Mr. Melmoth. In fact, I suspect that we are in regard to this point a little imposed upon, and that our judgments are insensibly influenced and biassed by certain circumstances to which we do not immediately advert. In reading the works of


Sir William Temple, we plainly perceive that he was a man perfectly conversant with the great world. We know that he was a man of the

politest manners and address, and his mode of writing is free, easy, and amusing, without any tincture of affectation or pedantry; so that we easily persuade ourselves that his Stile is graceful; and his folecisms, his uncouth periods, and aukward phrases, pass for the casual slips of an elegant but careless writer. I have at this moment before me a volume of Sir William Temple's works, containing a variety of tracts, any one of which will furnish abundant proofs of the justice of this remark. I shall select a few instances from his confolatory epistle to the Countess of Essex upon the loss of her only daughter. After making some apologies for not answering at a more early period a letter he had received from her Ladyship, he adds, “ Your Ladyship at least has had the “ advantage of being thereby excused some time “ from this trouble, which I could no longer for“ bear upon the sensible wounds that have fo often “ of late been given your friends here by such “ desperate expressions in several of your letters," &c. To say nothing of the inelegant construction of the whole sentence, What should we now think of a writer who should talk of sensible wounds given by desperate expressions ? “ Almighty gave you all the blessings of life, and you fet

your heart wholly upon one, and despise 6 and undervalue all the rest; is this his fault or

66 God

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yours?” The fault of God is a mode of speech which the delicacy, if not the devotion, of modern critics would not easily pardon. " A friend “ makes me a feast, and fets all before me that his

care or kindness could provide ; but I set my heart

upon one dish alone, and if that happen to be " thrown down, I scorn all the rest; and though he “ fends for another of the same, yet I rise from the “ table in a rage, and say, my friend is my enemy, " and has done me the greatest wrong in the world. “ Have I reason, Madam, or good grace, in what I

do?” This illustration has little to boast of in point of justness of thought; and it is very

defective in dignity and decorum; particularly in the circumstance of sending for another dish of the Jame, as he phrases it; and the vulgarity of the language perfectly accords with the grossness of the ideas. Again: “ Passions are the stings “ without which they say no honey is made;

yet I think all sorts of men have ever agreed they

ought to be our servants, and not our masters; to “ give us some agitation for entertainment or ex“ ercise, but never to throw reason out of its seat;" so that it seems our passions may at once be compared and bear an equal resemblance to “ bees, servants, and horses.” This reminds one of the happy ductility of Polonius, who allows that the same cloud is very like an ouzle, very like a camel, and very like a whale. Once more: “ How “ has my Lord of Essex deserved, that you should

go about to lose him a wife he loves with so much passion, and, which is more, with so much reason;


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