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Homer, although he chiedy admired the sublimity, yet he was most delighted with the pictures of characters and manners. On account of its more minute delineation of antient society, he read the Odyssey more frequently than the Iliad. He was deeply conversant in the philosophy of Greece, abstruse and practical. In the earlier part of his life he devoted himself principally to the former, but afterwards to the latter. Which of the great historians he mostly admired I have not heard. It is almost needless to say that Demosthenes was his favourite orator. Among dramatic writers, Euripides was more relished by hmm than even Sophocles : the poet who described men as they were, than the poet who drew them as they ought to be—the copier from experience than from theory.
Human nature was Burke's favourite study: those writings he perused with the most exquisite delight, which exhibited particular characters, general manners, the cognitive and active principles of the human mind, and their operation in the relations and duties of society. This predilection for * pictures of moral nature might be farther illustrated from the modern writers whom he preferred : among these were Bacon and Shakespeare, of the highest order ; and of a high, though inferior order, Fielding, Le Sage, and especially Addison. Concerning Fielding he differed with his friend Johnson, and preferred him to Richardson: the painter from real life to the painter from his own fancy. Mr. Burke was very fond of novels in general, and very often amused friendly parties at his own house with reading good new works of that kind; and still more so old. He was very partial to Smollet's Roderick Random, as a natural and excellent description of a young man, coming, with all his provincial notions and peculiarities, to push his fortune in the capital. Though he preferred Fielding on the whole, yet he thought Smollet's hero, in point of enterprize and active exertion, preferable to Tom Jones. Both,' he said, set out poor from their respective homes. Roderick, by in
dustry endeavours to supply his wants ; while Jones, benevolent and meritorious as his character was in many respects, yet, when he has nothing to depend on but his own efforts, continues in a state of inaction. The conduct of Roderick was in this more natural; and more worthy of imitation than that of Jones.' The whole of the novel of Fielding, however, he greatly preferred to the whole of Smollet's. His precise opinion of Pope I have not learned: Swift he did not relish as a describer of human nature, because he only gave one side.
The communicativeness of Mr. Boswell often brings out particulars respecting himself, which many writers would have spared, He informs us, that when he was proposed to be a member of the club, Mr. Burke objected to him, as not being fit. Johnson, however, being desirous to have Boswell admitted, the judgment of Burke gave way, in this instance, to the inclination of his friend. After Mr. Boswell was admitted into the Gerrard-street club, Burke treated
him with that easy and frank politeness, which was habitual to him, which the goodnatured and obliging disposition of Boswell deserved, and which he construed to be intimate friendship. The eager desire of Boswell to be acquainted with men of eminence, received from his own sanguine temper more gratification than from the actual notice of the personages whose company he courted. Common civility from such he often fancied to be a most distinguishing regard: no wonder then that the engaging manners of Burke should pass with him for marks of peculiar attachment to himself. Great men are generally introduced by Mr. Boswell, in order to talk of himself, a subject on which he always dwells with peculiar pleasure. His egotism, however, is not the effect of arrogant haughtiness, but of goodnatured vanity. He certainly has been of considerable advantage to the public by the many facts he has recorded concerning other great men, as well as the object of his adoration. If there be no great clearness of arrangement, or comprehensive views of
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whole characters and subjects, there is pleasantness and utility of collection. The public may not be much entertained with the history of the Ashbourn dead cat, or of Veronica, the writer's great grandmother, but are pleased and instructed by authentic narratives of conversations between the most eminent men of the age. Those who care little about the genealogical history of Auchinleck and Balmuto, about the chieftainship of Macleod or of Raasay, are pleased to be informed concerning Beauclerk, Gold, smith, Johnson, and Burke...
Burke entertained a poor opinion of the Beggar's Opera. He allowed it, on the whole, very inconsiderable merit. Hethought its intellectual excellence small, and totally overbalanced by its moral defects. He did not admit the common-place objection, that it was calculated to increase the number of robbers. These who betake themselves to. the highway, he thought it probable, are impelled by much more powerful motives than the imitation of a fictitious robber, ex«