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dice, and his judgment is insensibly warped by the particularity of his private opinion. These observations apply to his Life of Savage, the most finished of his biographical disquisitions; and his Lives of feveral other eminent men, which were originally printed in the “ Gentleman's Magazine,” and in other periodical publications, and afterwards collected by Mr. Davies, in his “ Miscellaneous and Fugitive Pieces,” and to his Lives of the Poets,

As a critic, he is entitled to the praise of being the greatest that our nation has produced. He has not, like his prodecessors, tried merely to learn the art, and not to feel it. He has not gone to Dacier or to Bossu, to borrow rules to fetter genius by example, and impart distinctions which lead to no end; but, possessed of two qualities, without which a critic is no more than a caviller, strong sense, and an intimate knowledge of human nature, he has followed his own judgment, unbiassed by authority, and has adopted all the good sense of Aristotle, untrammelled by his forms. This praise he has merited by his Preface to Sbakspeare, and the detached pieces of criticism which appear among his works. But his critical powers fhine with more concentrated radiance in the Lives of the Pocts. These compositions, abounding in strong and just illustrations of criticism, evince the vigour of his mind, and that happy art of moralization, by which he gives to well-known incidents the grace of novelty and the force of instruction; and “ grapples the attention,” by expressing common thoughts with uncommon strength and elegance. Of many passages, it is scarcely hyperbolical to affirm, that they are executed with all the skill and penetration of Aristotle, and animated and embellished with all the fire of Longinus. The lives of Cowley, Milton, Butler, Waller, Dryden, Addison, and Pope, are elaborately composed, and exhibit the noblest specimens of entertaining and solid criticism, that ancient or modern times have produced. The dissertation in the Life of Cowley, on the metaphysical poets of the last century, has all the attraction of novelty, as well as found observation. In the review of his works, false wit is detected in all its shapes; and the Gothic taste for glittering conceits, and far-fetched allusions, is exploded, never, it is hoped, to revive again. The “ Paradise Lost,” is a poem which the mind of Milton only could have produced; the criticism upon it is such as, perhaps, the pen of Johnson only could have written. His estimate of Dryden and Pope, challenges Quintilian's remarks upon Demosthenes and Cicero, and rivals the finest fpecimens of elegant composition and critical acuteness in the English language. Some caution, however, is

required to peruse these admirable compositions with advantage. The present writer means not to say that they are perfect, or that, on the whole, they are executed with propriety. If they be regarded merely as containing narrations of the lives, delineations of the characters, and strictures of the several authors, they are far from being always to be depended upon. Johnson, as he has had occasion to remark, in reviewing his judgments of the several poets who have fallen under his consideration, brought to the production of this work ideas already formed, opinions tinctured with his usual hues of party, and prejudice, and the rigid unfeeling philosophy, which could neither bend to excuse failings, or judge of what was not

capable of a dispassionate disquisition... • To think for himself in critical, as in all other matters, is a privilege to which every one is undoubtedly entitled. This privia

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lege of critical independence, an affectation of singularity, or some other principle not immediately visible, is frequently betraying into a dogmatical spirit of contradiction to received opinion. Of this there need no further proofs, than his almost uniform attempt to depreciate the writers of blank verse, and his degrading estimate of the exquisite compositions of Prior, Hammond, Collins, Gray, Shenstone, and Akenside, and his pronouncing the “ Patadise Lost" " one of those books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take it up again.” In his judgments of these poets, he may be justly accused of being inflamed by prejudice, refolutely blind to merit. His rigorous condemnation, and puerile criticisms upon Gray, and his faftidious judgment of Shenftone, have drawn down upon him the united cenfures of those who admire poetry in her moft daring attitudes and gorgeous at

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