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been already made by Waller and Den
ham; they had shown that long discourses Criticism, either didactic or defensive, in rhyme grew more pleasing when they occupies almost all his prose, except | were broken unto couplets, and that those pages which he has devoted to his verse consisted not only in the number patrons; but none of his prefaces were but the arrangement of syllables. ever thought tedious. They have not But though they did much, who can the formality of a settled style, in which deny that they left much to do? [60 the first half of a sentence betrays the Their works were not many, nor were other. The clauses are never balanced, their minds of very ample comprehension. nor the periods modelled; every word | More examples of more modes of composiseems to drop by chance, though it (10 | tion were necessary for the establishment falls into its proper place. Nothing is of regularity, and the introduction of cold or languid; the whole is airy, ani- propriety in word and thought. mated, and vigorous: what is little, is | Every language of a learned nation gay; what is great, is splendid. He may necessarily divides itself into diction be thought to mention himself too fre scholastic and popular, grave and familiar, quently; but while he forces himself upon elegant and gross; and from a nice 170 our esteem, we cannot refuse him to stand distinction of these different parts arises high in his own. Everything is excused a great part of the beauty of style. But by the play of images and the sprightli if we except a few minds, the favorites ness of expression. Though all is (20 of nature, to whom their original rectitude easy, nothing is feeble; though all seems was in the place of rules, this delicacy of careless, there is nothing harsh; and selection was little known to our authors: though since his earlier works more than our speech lay before them in a heap of a century has passed, they have nothing confusion, and every man took for every yet uncouth or obsolete.
purpose what chance might offer him. He who writes much will not easily There was therefore before the time 80 escape a manner, such a recurrence of of Dryden no poetical diction: no system particular modes as may be easily noted. of words at once refined from the grossDryden is always “another and theness of domestic use, and free from the same;" he does not exhibit a second (30 harshness of terms appropriated to partime the same elegances in the same form, ticular arts. Words too familiar, or too nor appears to have any art other than remote, defeat the purpose of a poet. that of expressing with clearness what he From those sounds which we hear on thinks with vigor. His style could not small or on coarse occasions, we do not easily be imitated, either seriously or easily receive strong impressions, or ludicrously; for, being always equable and | delightful images; and words to which (90 always varied, it has no prominent or we are nearly strangers, whenever they discriminative characters. The beauty occur, draw that attention on themselves who is totally free from disproportion of which they should transmit to things. parts and features, cannot be ridiculed (40 Those happy combinations of words by an overcharged resemblance.
which distinguish poetry from prose had From his prose, however, Dryden de- been rarely attempted; we had few elerives only his accidental and secondary gances or flowers of speech: the roses had praise; the veneration with which his not yet been plucked from the bramble, name is pronounced by every cultivator or different colors had not yet been joined of English literature is paid to him as he to enliven one another.
(100 refined the language, improved the senti | It may be doubted whether Waller and ments, and tuned the numbers of English | Denham could have overborne the prejPoetry.
udices which had long prevailed, and After about half a century of forced (50 which even then were sheltered by the thoughts and rugged metre, some ad- | protection of Cowley. The new versificavances towards nature and harmony had tion, as it was called, may be considered as owing its establishment to Dryden; be affirmed; his instructions were such as from whose time it is apparent that Eng- | the characters of his readers made proper. lish poetry has had no tendency to re That general knowledge which now cirlapse to its former savageness. (110culates in common talk, was in his time
rarely to be found. Men not professing
learning were not ashamed of ignorance; From ADDISON
and in the female world, any acquaint- 150
ance with books was distinguished only At the school of the Chartreux ...1 to be censured. His purpose was to infuse he . . . contracted that intimacy with Sir
literary curiosity, by gentle and unsusRichard Steele, which their joint labors
pected conveyance, into the gay, the have so effectually recorded.
idle, and the wealthy; he therefore preOf this memorable friendship the greater sented knowledge in the most alluring praise must be given to Steele. It is not form, not lofty and austere, but accessible hard to love those from whom nothing and familiar. When he showed them can be feared, and Addison never con their defects, he showed them likewise sidered Steele as a rival; but Steele lived,
that they might be easily supplied. 100 as he confesses, under an habitual (10
His attempt succeeded; enquiry was subjection to the predominating genius
awakened, and comprehension expanded. of Addison, whom he always mentioned
An emulation of intellectual elegance was with reverence, and treated with obse excited, and from his time to our own, quiousness,
life has been gradually exalted, and conAddison, who knew his own dignity, versation purified and enlarged. could not always forbear to show it, by playing a little upon his admirer; but he , was in no danger of retort: his jests were As a describer of life and manners, he endured without resistance or resentment. must be allowed to stand perhaps the first
of the first rank. His humor, which, as Before the Tatler and Spectator, if [20
Steele observes, is peculiar to himself, 170 the writers for the theatre are excepted,
is so happily diffused as to give the grace England had no masters of common life.
of novelty to domestic scenes and daily No writers had yet undertaken to reform
occurrences. He never “outsteps the either the savageness of neglect or the
modesty of nature,” nor raises merriment impertinence of civility; to show when
or wonder by the violation of truth. His to speak, or to be silent; how to refuse, or
figures neither divert by distortion, nor how to comply. We had many books to
amaze by aggravation. He copies life teach us our more important duties, and
with so much fidelity, that he can be to settle opinions in philosophy or politics;
hardly said to invent; yet his exhibitions but an Arbiter elegantiarum, a judge of 130
have an air so much original that it [80 propriety, was yet wanting, who should
is difficult to suppose them not merely survey the track of daily conversation
the product of imagination. and free it from thorns and prickles,
As a teacher of wisdom, he may be which tease the passer, though they do
confidently followed. His religion has not wound him.
nothing in it enthusiastic or superstitious: For this purpose nothing is so proper
he appears neither weakly credulous nor as the frequent publication of short papers,
wantonly sceptical; his morality is neither which we read not as study but amuse
dangerously lax, nor impracticably rigid. ment. If the subject be slight, the trea
All the enchantment of fancy and all the tise likewise is short. The busy may (40
cogency of argument are employed [go find time, and the idle may find patience.
to recommend to the reader his real in
terest, the care of pleasing the Author * * * * * *
of his being. Truth is shown sometimes That he always wrote as he would as the phantom of a vision, sometimes think it necessary to write now, cannot appears half-veiled in an allegory; sometimes attracts regard in the robes of fancy, of his reader, and, expecting no induland sometimes steps forth in the confi gence from others, he showed none to dence of reason. She wears a thousand himself. He examined lines and words dresses, and all is pleasing.
with minute and punctilious observation, Mille habet ornatus, mille decenter habet. (100
and retouched every part with inde
fatigable diligence, till he had left nothing His prose is the model of the middle | to be forgiven. style; on grave subjects not formal, on light occasions not groveling; pure without scrupulosity, and exact without ap- / In acquired knowledge, the superiority parent elaboration; always equable, and must be allowed to Dryden, whose [20 always easy, without glowing words or education was more scholastic, and who pointed sentences. Addison never de before he became an author had been viates from his track to snatch a grace; allowed more time for study, with better he seeks no ambitious ornaments, and means of information. His mind has a tries no hazardous inventions. His (110 larger range, and he collects his images page is always luminous, but never blazes and illustrations from a more extensive in unexpected splendor.
circumference of science. Dryden knew It was apparently his principal endeavor more of man in his general nature, and to avoid all harshness and severity of Pope in his local manners. The notions diction; he is therefore sometimes verbose of Dryden were formed by compre- [30 in his transitions and connections, and hensive speculation, and those of Pope sometimes descends too much to the | by minute attention. There is more diglanguage of conversation; yet if his lan- | nity in the knowledge of Dryden, and guage had been less idiomatical it might more certainty in that of Pope. have lost somewhat of its genuine (120 Poetry was not the sole praise of either, Anglicism. What he attempted, he per for both excelled likewise in prose; but formed; he is never feeble, and he did not Pope did not borrow his prose from his wish to be energetic; he is never rapid, | predecessor. The style of Dryden is and he never stagnates. His sentences capricious and varied, that of Pope is have neither studied amplitude, nor af cautious and uniform; Dryden obeys (40 fected brevity; his periods, though not the motions of his own mind, Pope condiligently rounded, are voluble and easy. strains his mind to his own rules of comWhoever wishes to attain an English position. Dryden is sometimes vehement style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant and rapid; Pope is always smooth, unibut not ostentatious, must give his (130 form, and gentle. Dryden's page is a days and nights to the volumes of Addison. natural field, rising into inequalities, and
diversified by the varied exuberance of
abundant vegetation; Pope's is a velvet From POPE
lawn, shaven by the scythe, and levelled by the roller.
150 Pope) professed to have learned his Of genius, that power which constipoetry from Dryden, whom, whenever | tutes a poet; that quality without which an opportunity was presented, he praised judgment is cold and knowledge is inert; through his whole life with unvaried that energy which collects, combines, liberality; and perhaps his character may amplifies, and animates—the superiority receive some illustration if he be com must, with some hesitation, be allowed pared with his master.
to Dryden. It is not to be inferred that of this poetical vigor Pope had only a
little, because Dryden had more; for Pope was not content to satisfy; he every other writer since Milton must (60 desired to excel, and therefore always give place to Pope; and even of Dryden endeavored to do his best: he did not (10 it must be said, that if he has brighter court the candor, but dared the judgment paragraphs, he has not better poems. Dryden's performances were always hasty, will not by slight objections violate the either excited by some external occasion, dignity.
130 or extorted by domestic necessity; he | My process has now brought me to the composed without consideration, and pub- “Wonderful Wonder of Wonders," the lished without correction. What his | two Sister Odes; by which, though either mind could supply at call, or gather in vulgar ignorance or common sense at first one excursion, was all that he sought, [70 universally rejected them, many have been and all that he gave. The dilatory cau- | since persuaded to think themselves detion of Pope enabled him to condense his lighted. I am one of those that are willsentiments, to multiply his images, and ing to be pleased, and therefore would to accumulate all that study might pro- gladly find the meaning of the first stanza duce, or chance might supply. If the | of The Progress of Poesy. flights of Dryden therefore are higher, | Gray seems in his rapture to confound Pope continues longer on the wing. If of the images of “spreading sound” and Dryden's fire the blaze is brighter, of | “running water." A "stream of music" Pope's the heat is more regular and con- may be allowed; but where does music, stant. Dryden often surpasses ex- (80 however “smooth and strong," after pectation, and Pope never falls below it. having visited the “verdant vales," “roll Dryden is read with frequent astonish down the steep amain," so as that “rocks ment, and Pope with perpetual delight. and nodding groves rebellow to the
roar”? If this be said of music, it is
nonsense; if it be said of water, it is 150 From GRAY
nothing to the purpose.
The second stanza, exhibiting Mars's Gray's poetry is now to be considered, car and Jove's eagle, is unworthy of and I hope not to be looked on as an further notice. Criticism disdains to enemy to his name if I confess that I chase a schoolboy to his commonplaces. contemplate it with less pleasure than his life.
The third stanza sounds big with Delphi,
and Egean, and Ilissus, and Meander, The Prospect of Eton College suggests and “hallowed fountain”, and “solemn nothing to Gray which every beholder does sound”; but in all Gray's odes there is a not equally think and feel. His supplica- | kind of cumbrous splendor which we (60 tion to Father Thames, to tell him who wish away. His position is at last false: in drives the hoop or tosses the ball, is (10 the time of Dante and Petrarch, from useless and puerile. Father Thames has whom he derives our first school of poetry, no better means of knowing than himself. Italy was overrun by “tyrant power” and His epithet “buxom health” is not ele “coward vice”; nor was our state much gant; he seems not to understand the word. better when we first borrowed the Italian Gray thought his language more poetical arts. as it was more remote from common use: finding in Dryden “honey redolent of Spring,” an expression that reaches the The Bard appears, at first view, to utmost limits of our language, Gray be ... an imitation of the prophecy of drove it a little more beyond com- [20 Nereus. ...
170 mon apprehension, by making “gales” To select a singular event, and swell it to be “redolent of joy and youth.” to a giant's bulk by fabulous appendages
Of the Ode on Adversity, the hint was of spectres and predictions, has little at first taken from 0 Diva, gratum quae difficulty, for he that forsakes the probable regis Antium; but Gray has excelled his | may always find the marvellous. And original by the variety of his sentiments, it has little use: we are affected only as and by their moral application. Of this we believe; we are improved only as piece, at once poetical and rational, I we find something to be imitated or de
clined. I do not see that The Bard pro- whose memoirs I am now writing; an motes any truth, moral or political. [80 acquaintance which I shall ever esteem
as one of the most fortunate circumstances
in my life. Though then but two-andThese odes are marked by glittering | twenty, I had for several years read his accumulations of ungraceful ornaments: works with delight and instruction, and they strike, rather than please; the images had the highest reverence for their au- (10 are magnified by affectation; the language thor, which had grown up in my fancy is labored into harshness. The mind of into a kind of mysterious veneration, by the writer seems to work with unnatural figuring to myself a state of solemn eleviolence. “Double, double, toil andvated abstraction, in which I supposed trouble.” He has a kind of strutting him to live in the immense metropolis of dignity, and is tall by walking on tiptoe. London. Mr. Gentleman, a native of His art and his struggle are too [90 Ireland, who passed some years in Scotvisible, and there is too little appearance land as a player, and as an instructor in of ease and nature.
the English language, a man whose talents To say that he has no beauties, would and worth were depressed by misfor- (20 be unjust: a man like him, of great learn tunes, had given me a representation of ing, and great industry, could not but the figure and manner of DICTIONARY produce something valuable. When he JOHNSON! as he was then generally called; pleases least, it can only be said that a and during my first visit to London, good design was ill directed.
which was for three months in 1760, Mr. His translations of Northern and Derrick, the poet, who was Gentleman's Welsh poetry deserve praise: the im- (100 friend and countryman, flattered me with agery is preserved, perhaps often im hopes that he would introduce me to proved; but the language is unlike the Johnson, an honor of which I was very language of other poets.
ambitious. But he never found an (30 In the character of his Elegy I rejoice to opportunity; which made me doubt that concur with the common reader; for by he had promised to do what was not in the common sense of readers uncor his power; till Johnson some years afterrupted with literary prejudices, after all wards told me, “Derrick, Sir, might very the refinements of subtility and the dog-well have introduced you. I had a kindmatism of learning, must be finally de ness for Derrick, and am sorry he is dead.” cided all claim to poetical honors. The (110 | In the summer of 1761 Mr. Thomas Church-yard abounds with images which Sheridan was at Edinburgh, and delivered find a mirror in every mind, and with | lectures upon the English Language and sentiments to which every bosom returns Public Speaking to large and respect- [40 an echo. The four stanzas beginning able audiences. I was often in his com“Yet even these bones,” are to me original: pany, and heard him frequently expatiate I have never seen the notions in any other upon Johnson's extraordinary knowledge, place; yet he that reads them here, per talents, and virtues, repeat his pointed suades himself that he has always felt sayings, describe his particularities, and them. Had Gray written often thus it boast of his being his guest sometimes had been vain to blame, and useless (120 till two or three in the morning. At his to praise him.
house I hoped to have many opportunities
of seeing the sage, as Mr. Sheridan obligJAMES BOSWELL (1740–1796) ingly assured me I should not be dis- [50
appointed. THE LIFE OF SAMUEL JOHNSON
When I returned to London in the end From THE YEAR 1763
of 1762, to my surprise and regret I found
an irreconcilable difference had taken This is to me a memorable year; for in place between Johnson and Sheridan. A it I had the happiness to obtain the ac- pension of two hundred pounds a year quaintance of that extraordinary man had been given to Sheridan. Johnson,