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First, We may often take notice of men who are perfectly acquainted with all the rules of good writing, and notwithstanding choose to depart frora them on extraordinary occasions. I could give instances out of all the tragic writers of antiquity who have shewn their judgment in this particular; and purposely receded from an established rule of the drama, when it has made way for a much higher beauty than the observation of such a rule wouli,! have been. Those who have surveyed the noblest pieces of architecture and statuary, both ancient and modern, know very well that tJiere are frequent deviations from art in the works of the greatest masters, which have produced a much nobler effect than a more accurate and exact way of proceeding could have done. This often arises from what the Italians call the gusto grande in these arts, which is what we call the sublime in writing.
In the next place, our critics do not seem sensible that there is more beauty in the works of a great genius, who is ignorant of the rules of art, tiian in those of a little genius who knows and observes them. It is of these men of genius that Terence speaks, in opposition to the little artificial cayillers of his time;
'Quorum cmulari exoptat negligentiam
• Whose negligence he would rather imitate than these
A critic may have the same consolation in the ilji success of his play as Dr. South tells us a physician has at the death of a patient, that he was killed secundum artcm. Our inimitable Shakspeare is a stumbling-block to the whole tribe of these rigid critics. Who would not rather read one of nis plays, where there is not a single rule of the stage observed, than any production of a modern critic, where there is not one of them violated! Shakspeare "was indeed born with all the seeds of poetry, and may be compared to the stone in Pyrrhus's. 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.
N° 593. MONDAY, SEPT. 13, 1714.
Sitah per inrertam lunam sub luce maligna
Thus wander travellers in woods by night,
Mr dreaming correspondent, Mr. Shadow, has sent me a second letter, with several curious ohservations on dreams in general, and the method to render sleep improving: an extract of his letter will not, I presume, be disagreeable to my readers.
'since we have so little time to spare, that none of it may be lost, I see no reason why we should neglect to examine those imaginary scenes we are presented with in sleep, only because they have less reality in them than our waking meditations. A traveller would bring his judgment in question, who should despise the directions of his map for want of real roads in it, because here stands a dot instead of a town, or a cypher instead of a city; and it must be a long day's journey to travel through two or three inches. Fancy in dreams gives us much such another landscape of life as that does of countries: and, though its appearances may seem strangely jumbled together, we may often observe such traces and footsteps of noble thoughts, as, if carefully pursued, might lead us into a proper path of action. There is so much rapture and ecstasy in our fancied bliss, and something so dismal and shocking in our fancied misery, that, though the inactivity of the body has given occasion for calling sleep the image of death, the briskness of the fancy affords us a strong intimation of something within us that can never dieT
'I have wondered that Alexander the Great, who came into the world sufficiently dreamed of by his parents, and had himself a tolerable knack at dreaming, should often say that sleep was one thing which made him sensible he was mortal. I, who have not such fields of action in the day-time to divert my attention from this matter, plainly perceive that in those operations of the mind, while the body is at rest, there is a certain vastness of conception very suitable to the capacity, and demonstrative of the force of that divine part in our composition which will last for ever. Neither do I much doubt but, had we a true account of the wonders the hero last mentioned performed in his sleep, his conquering this little globe would hardly be worth mentioning. I may affirm, without vanity, that, when I compare several actions in Quintus Curtius with some others in my own noctuary, I appear the greater hero of the two.'
I shall close this subject with observing, that while we are awake we are at liberty to fix our thoughts on what we please, but in sleep we have not the command of them. The ideas which strike the fancy arise in us without our choice, either. from the occurrences of the day past, the temper we lie down in, or it may be the direction of some superior being.
It is certain the imagination may be so differently affected in sleep, that our actions of the day might be either rewarded or punished with a little age of happiness or misery. St Austin was of opinion that, if in Paradise there was the same vicissitude of sleeping and waking as in the present world, the dreams of its inhabitants would be very happy.
And so far at present are our dreams in our power, that they are generally conformable to our waking thoughts, so that it is not impossible- to convey ourselves to a concert of music, the conversation of distant friends, or any other entertainment which has been before lodged in the mind.
My readers, by applying these hints, will find the necessity of making a good day of it, if they heartily wish themselves a good night.
I .have often considered Marcia's prayer, and Lucia's account of Cato, in this light.
'Marc. O ye immortal powers, that guard the just,
Luc. Sweet are the slumbers of the virtuous man!
0 Marcia, 1 have seen thy god-ike father;
1 saw him stretch'd at ease, his fancy lost
In pleasing dreams; as I drew near his couch
He smil'd, and cry'd, Cesar, thou canst not hurt me."
Mr. Shadow acquaints me in a postscript, that he has no manner of title to the vision which succeeded his first letter; but adds, that, as the gentleman who wrote it dreams very sensibly, he shall be glad to meet him some night or other under the great elm-tree, by which Virgil has given us a fine metaphorical image of sleep, in order to turn over a few of the leaves together, and oblige the public with an account of the dreams that lie under them.
N*594. WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 15, 1714.
. ....... •Jr.. _..
Sui non defendit alio cutpante; solutos
2iti captat risus hominum, famamque dicacis;
Fingere qui non visa potest; commissa t&cere
Sui ncquit; hie niger est: hunc tu, Romane, cavett.
HOR. 1 Sat. iv. 8(.
Me that shall rail against his absent friends,
Or hears them scandaliz'd, and not defends;
Sports with their fame, and speaks whate'er he can,
And pnly to be thought a witty man;
Tells tales, and brings his friends in disesteem;
That man's a knave;—be sure beware of him.
Were all the vexations of life put together, we should fjnd that a great part of them proceed from those calumnies and reproaches which we spread abroad concerning one another.
There is scarce a man living who is not, in" some degree, guilty of this offence} though at the,