페이지 이미지

from superior genius, be alike welcome. The partiality may, however, in some measure, be attributed to the enthusiasm with which we now worship the memory and the works of Shakspeare, undoubtedly the greatest master of the wild and terrible that the world has ever seen. The revived taste too for Gothic architecture has, without doubt, assisted in influencing the popu . lar opinion, and moulding the fashion of romantic literature.

Could these powerful superstitions be ever under the controul of talent, such as graces the pages

of a Radcliffe, where the forms of terror, of beauty, and of pity, rise tinged with the most fascinating hues of fancy, they would be welcomed as the noblest and most impressive agents of poetry and fiction ; but such has lately been the torrent of nonsense and puerility with which the circulating libraries, under the title of romance, have deluged the country, that no man who has

any value for his time now dares to inspect a volume so designated.

From this short digression let us turn to add, that though several writers of the present day have affected to despise the critical abilities of Addison, among

them will not be found the name of Samuel Johnson. « It is not uncommon," says this powerful writer, “ for those who have

grown wise by the labour of others, to add a little of their own, and overlook their masters.

“ Before the profound observers of the present race repose too securely on the consciousness of their superiority to Addison, let them consider his remarks on Ovid, in which may be found specimens of criticism sufficiently subtle and refined : let them peruse, likewise, his Essays on Wit and on the Pleasures of Imagination, in which he founds art on the base of nature, and draws the principles of invention from dispositions inherent in the mind of man, with 'skill and elegance, such as his contemners will not easily attain *.

Independent of these extended dissertations on Wit, on Milton, and on the Pleasures of Imagination, our author has dispersed throughout the Spectator and Guardian a variety of the most elegant and amusing pieces of criticism, such as might alone vindicate his claim with posterity to the honours of an accomplished critic. The Essays on Old English Ballads f and on the beauties of Sappho are written in a vein of the most exquisite taste and feeling; and the paper on Irregular Genius § closes with an encomium on

* Lives of the Poets, vol. ii. p. 137, 139.
+ Spectator, No 85.
I Ditto, No 223 and 229.
$ Ditto, No 592.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

Shakspeare, which forits singularly happy imagery may set competition at defiance.

“Shakspeare,” says he, “was born with all the seeds of poetry, and may be compared to the stone in Pyrrhus' ring, which, as Pliny tells us, had the figure of Apollo and the nine Muses in the veins of it, produced by the spontaneous hand of nature, without any help from art.”

To the critical numbers in the Spectator) already enumerated, we nay add, as of nearly equal merit, the papers on the English Language *, on Genius and Pindaric Poetry t, on Ancient and Modern Literature I, on Pope's Essay on Criticism ş, on Sacred Poetry and Music ll, on Oratory (, and on a Fine Taste in Writing **

These all display unequivocal marks of judgment and acuteness, and, as far as the limits and the nature of a periodical essay will admit, are full and satisfactory.

We can likewise affirm that the same refined taste which accompanied our author in the walks of polite literature equally distinguished him in the sister arts of painting, architecture, and gardening. The love of nature and simplicity, and

* Spectator, No 135.
[ Ditto, No 249.
+ Ditto, No 405.
* Ditto, No 409.

† Spectator, No 160.
§ Ditto, No 253.

Ditto, N° 407.

an intimacy with the best productions of the schools, formed the ground work of his decisions; in gardening especially he has exhibited a taste little consonant to the opinions of his contemporaries, and almost assimilated with our present ideas of the picturesque in landscape. Bacon has affirmed perfection in gardening to be the most decisive proof of civilization ; a man shall ever see,” he remarks,“ that when ages grow to civility and elegancy, men come to build stately, sooner than to garden finely: as if gardening were the greater perfection *.” It is, therefore, highly to the credit of Addison, that at a time when the style of gardening was in the highest degree stiff, formal, and unnatural, he not only introduced the beautiful scenery of Milton into notice, but took every opportunity of painting, in his periodical writings, the most lovely sketches of simple nature, and of recommending them as models for imitation. In his Essays on the Pleasures of Imagination he has strongly insisted on the superior charms of wildness and simplicity in the creation of pleasure grounds; and when, in a subsequent volume, he describes the garden of his choice, it is such as Brown or Mason would have delighted to wander in: "there is a fountain,"

* Bacon's Essays.

says he," rising in the upper part of my garden, which forms a little wandering rill, and administers to the pleasure as well as the plenty of the place. I have so conducted it, that it visits most of my plantations; and have taken particular care to let it run in the same manner as it would do in an open field; so that it generally passes through banks of violets and primroses, plats of willow, or other plants, that seem to be of its own producing. There is another circumstance in which I am very particular, or as my neighbours call me, very whimsical : as my garden invites into it all the birds of the country, by offering them the conveniency of springs and shades, solitude and shelter, I do not suffer any one to destroy their nests in the spring, or drive them from their usual haunts in fruit time; I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs. By this means I have always the music of the season in its perfection, and am highly delighted to see the jay or the thrush hopping about my walks, and shooting before my eyes across the several little glades and alleys that I pass through *.” In scenes such as these, whose flowers

* Spectator, vol. vii. N° 477.

« 이전계속 »