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ancient nobles; the assumed fools and clowns such as we see represented in Shakespeare's plays, not only bore the jokes of their superiors, but returned them. Principles remain, though customs may vary; and in modern times, few great tables are without knaves under the guise of fools, who, destitute of real spirit, suffer the jokes of their opulent entertainers to be showered on them at discretion. Dr. Young, who lived much among the great, describes these modern fools with great spirit
Who'd be a crutch to prop a rotten peer,
Lore of Fame, satire 4.
Rhyme and Rhythm. The former seems a grand enemy to the latter ornament in modern poetry. The music arising from rhythm and harmony are indeed, by readers in general, not so much attended to as the jingle of rhyme; and the monotony of Pope's versification is preferred by such readers to the more varied, yet
less smooth, versification of Dryden; and the studied modulation of the Miltonic muse boasts little value in the ear of the lover of rhyme; yet rhyme was the invention of rude ages, and continues the favourite of less learned readers. The author of Hudibras, an excellent scholar, justly estimated the value of rhyme, and has with his usual good sense and humour described it
Those that write in rhyme still make
Hudibras, canto 1.
Wit and Wisdom.
“ Sir Thomas Wyatt, a favourite of Henry VIII. though a man of much facetious discourse, yet kept it,” says the author* of observations on his life," within these rules:-1st. He never played upon a man's deformity or unhappiness, for that was inhuman. 2d. Not on superiors, for that was saucy and undutiful. 3d. Not on serious or holy matters, for that is irreligious. 4th. He had much salt but no gall, often jesting but no jeering. 5th. He observed times, persons, and circum stances, knowing when to speak and when to
6th. His apt and handsome * Lloyd's State Worthies.
hold his peace.
repartees were rather natural than affected, subtle and acute, prompt and easy, yet not careless, never rendering himself contemptible to please others.' 7th. Not an insipid change of words was his gift, but a smart retort of matters, which pleased others more than himself.”
Ridicule, the Test of Truth. This is one of many propositions that defy discussion by the ambiguous difficulty of the terms in which it is conveyed. The obvious meaning of this doctrine, so great a favourite of Lord Shaftesbury,* seems to be, that his lordship thought a jest more conclusive than argument. Be it so. The nobie writer has many superficial readers on his side ; but a jest and an argument are not the same things, and truth can only be elicited by argument. It certainly was the interest of the noble writer to prove that ridicule should be considered as the test of truth, as his lordship, though a tolerable joker, was certainly a very inferior
Physiognomy. Many pretend to laugh at the influence which a particular character of face exerts over our feel
* See his Characteristics.
ings, though they must often experience it. Without going the lengths of Lavaler, who measures the intellect of a man, as well as forms conjectures of his disposition, yet many a time and oft will the air of the countenance let us into the penetration of our neighbour's mind, and be of use when we are about to contract any acquaintance with him, or negociate any business.
Which is the villain ? let me see his eyes,
Much Ado About Nathing, scene 6.
Moliere and Regnard.
Though the former claims a great superiority over the latter as a comic writer, yet das Regnard adhered more strictly to the manners and customis of bis own nation. In Moliere, indeed, there is much of the vis conica; but much of the humour of his characters, and many of the incidents, are borrowed from Plautus and Terence. Moliere
a man of sense and genius, and when an important passion was to be treated as in Tartuffe, or “The Hypocrite,” vocem comædia tollit, and then he is superior to Regnard's ludicrous, and no doubt more accurate, representations of Frencla manners and frivolities.
Perspicuity in Writing. It is well observed by the most sensible critic among the ancients, that all inferior writers are apt to be obscure. The youthful student, in his first attempt to write his thoughts, should be aware of the difficulty of conveying his meaning with clearness to his reader; for an inattention to this truth has occasioned much darkness in prose
and verse, with young authors. Lavater has said wisely, though perhaps somewhat quaintly, that " he who is unintelligible is not intelligent." Certainly, a writer must understand himself first, before he can hope that his readers can comprehend him. M. Fontenelle relates of himself, that when he sat down to write, he, from time to time, considered “ do I understand myself.” Voltaire has borne ample testimony to the perspicuity and force of M. Fontenelle's writings: “L'ignorant l'entendit, le savant l'admira." The ignorant understand him, and the learned adınire him.
Common Faults in Composition.
Some writers who have a greater command of words, and are in possession of a very few ideas, and those in an imperfect state, have recourse to a