Imágenes de página

Pope has said of Homer:“ It is the sentiment that swells and fills out the diction, which rises with it, and forms itself about it ; like glass in the furnace, which grows to a greater magnitude, as the breath within is more powerful, and the heat more intense.” :“ The essays written by Johnson in the “ Adventurer,” may be called a continuation of the Rambler. The Idler, in order to be consistent with the assumed character, is written with abated vigour, in a style of ease and unlabotired elegance. It is the Odyssey after the Iliad. Intense thinking would not become the Idler. The first number presents a well-drawn portrait of an idler; and from that character no deviation could be made. Accordingly Johnson forgets his austere manner, and plays us into sense. He still continues his lectures on human life; but he adverts to common occurrences, and is often content

with the topic of the day. This account of the Idler may be closed, after observing, that the author's mother being buried on the 23d of January 1759, there is an admirable paper, occasioned by that event, on Saturday the 27th of the same month, No. 41. The reader, if he pleases, may compare it with another fine paper in the

Rambler, No. 41, on the conviction that · rushes on the mind at the bed of a dying


Raselas,” says Sir John Hawkins, “ is a specimen of our language scarcely to be paralleled ; it is written in a style refined to a degree of immaculate purity, and difplays the whole force of turgid eloquence.” One cannot but smile at this encomium. Rasselas is undoubtedly both elegant and sublime. It is a view of human life, displayed, it must be owned, in gloomy colours. The author's natural melancholy, depreffed at the time by the approaching diffolu

tion of his mother, darkened the picture.. A tale that should keep curiosity awake by the artifice of unexpected incidents, was not the design of a mind pregnant with better things. He who reads the heads of the chapters, will find that it is not a course of adventures that invites him forward, but a discussion of interefting questions ; Reflections on Human Life'; the History of Imlac, the Man of Learning; a Dissertation upon Poetry'; the Character of a Wise and Happy Man, who discourses with energy on the government of the passions, and on a sudden, when death deprives him of his daughter, forgets all his maxims of wisdom, and the eloquence that adorned them, yielding to the stroke of affliction with all the vehemence of the bitterest anguish. It is by pictures of life, and profound moral reflection, that expectation is engaged and gratified throughout the work. The Hif

tory of the Mad Astronomer, who imagines that for five years he possessed the regulation of the weather, and that the fun passed from tropic to tropic by his direction, represents, in striking colours, the sad effects of a distempered imagination. It becomes the more affecting, when we recollect that it proceeds from one who lived in fear of the same dreadful visitation ; from one, who says emphatically, “ Of the uncertainties in our present state, the most dreadful and alarming is the uncertain continuance of reason.” The inquiry into the cause of madness, and the dangerous prevalence of imagination, till in time fome particular train of ideas fixes the attention, and the mind recurs constantly to the favourite conception, is carried on in a strain of acute observation; but it leaves us room to think that the author was transcribing from his own apprehensions. The difcourse on the nature of the soul gives us .


all that philosophy knows ; not without a tincture of superstition. It is remarkable that the vanity of human pursuits was, about the same time, the subject that employed both Johnson and Voltaire; but Candide is the work of a lively imagination, and Rasselas, with all its splendour of eloquence, exhibits a gloomy picture. .“ The Dictionary, though in some instances abuse has been loud, and in others malice has endeavoured to undetermine its fame, still remains the Mount Atlas of Eng. lish literature.

Though storms and tempests thunder on its brow,
And oceans break their billows at its feet,
It stands unmoy'd, and glories in its height.

:“ That Johnson was eminently qualified for the office of a commentator on Shakspeare, no man can doubt; but it was an

office which he never cordially embraced. . The public expected more than he had

« AnteriorContinuar »