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wc are surprised the moment we weep; and yet upon reflection, find the passion so just, that we should be surprised if we had not wept, and wept at that very moment.
How astonishing is it again, that the passions directly opposite to these, laughter and spleen, are no less at his command; that he is not more a master of the great than the ridiculous in human nature; of our noblest tendernesses, than of our vainest foibles; of our strongest emotions, than of our idlest sensations!
Nor does he only excel in the passions: in the coolness of reflection and reasoning he is full as admirable. His sentiments are not only in general the most pertinent and judicious upon every subject, but by a talent very peculiar, something between penetration and felicity, he hits upon that particular point on which the bent of each argument turns, or the force of each motive depends. This is perfectly amazing, from a man of no education or experience in those great and public scenes of life which are usually the subject of his thoughts, so that he seemed to have known the world by intuition, to have looked through human nature at one glance, and to be the only author that gives ground for a very new opinion, That the philosopher, and even the man of the world, may be born, as well as the poet.
It must be owned, that with all these great excellencies, he has almost as great defects; and that as he has certainly written better, so he has perhaps written worse, than any other. But I think I can in some measure account for these defects, from several causes and accidents; without which it is hard to imagine that so large and so enlightened a mind could ever have been susceptible of them. That all these contingencies should unite to his disadvantage seems to me almost as singularly unlucky, as that so many various (nay, contrary) talents should meet in one man, was happy and extraordinary. Pope.
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When the hand of time shall have brushed off his editors and commentators, and when the very name of Voltaire, and even the memory of the language in which he has written, shall be no more, the Apalachian mountains, the banks of the Ohio, and the plains of Sciota shall resound with the accents of this barbarian: in his native tongue he shall roll the genuine passions of nature; nor shall the griefs of Lear be alleviated, or the charms and wit of Rosalind be abated by time. There is indeed nothing perishable about him, except that very learning which he is said so much to want. He had not, it is true, enough for the demands of the age in which he lived, but he had perhaps too much for the reach of his genius, and the interest of his fame. Milton and he will carry the decayed remnants and fripperies of ancient mythology into more distant ages than they are by their own force entitled to extend to; and the Metamorphoses of Ovid, upheld by them, lay in a new claim to unmerited immortality.
Shakspeare is a name so interesting, that it is excusable to stop a moment, nay, it would be indecent to pass him without the tribute of some admiration. He differs essentially from all other writers: him we may profess rather to feel than to understand; and it is safer to say, on many occasions, that we are possessed by him, than that we possess him: and no wonder;—he scatters the seeds of things, the principles of character and action, with so cunning a hand, and yet with so careless an air, and, master of our feelings, submits himself so little to our judgment, that every thing seems superior. We discern not his course, we see no connexion of cause and effect, we are wrapt in ignorant admiration, and claim no kindred with his abilities. All the incidents, all the parts, look like chance, whilst we feel and are sensible that the whole is design. His characters not only act in strict conformity to nature, but in strict relation to us; just so much is shown as is requisite; just so much is impressed; he commands every passage to our heads and to our hearts, and moulds us as he pleases, and that with so much ease, that he never betrays his own exertions. We see these characters act from the mingled motives of passion, reason, interest, habit, and complexion, in all their proportions, when they are supposed to know it not themselves; and we are made to acknowledge that their actions and sentiments are, from these motives, the necessary result. He at once blends and distinguishes every thing;—every thing is complicated, every thing is plain. I restrain the further expressions of my admiration, lest they should not seem applicable to man; but it is really astonishing that a mere human being, a part of humanity only, should so perfectly comprebend the whole; and that he should possess such exquisite art, that whilst every child shall feel the whole effect, his learned editors and commentators should yet so very frequently mistake or seem ignorant of the cause. A sceptre or a straw are in his hands of equal efficacy; he needs no selection; he converts every thing into excellence; nothing is too great, nothing is too base. Is a character efficient like Richard, it is every thing we can wish: is it otherwise, like Hamlet, it is productive of equal admiration: action produces one mode of excellence and inaction another: the chronicle, the novel, or the ballad ; the king or the beggar, the hero or the madman, the sot or the fool; it is all one;—nothing is worse, nothing is better. The same genius pervades and is equally admirable in all. Or, is a character to be shown in progressive change, and the events of years comprised within the hour,—with what a magic hand does he prepare and scatter his spells! The understanding must, in the first place, be subdued; and lo! how the rooted prejudices of the child spring up to confound the man! The weird sisters rise, and order is extinguished. The laws of nature give way, and leave nothing in our minds but wildness and horror. No pause is allowed us for reflection: horrid sentiment, furious guilt and compunction, air-drawn daggers, murders, ghosts, and enchantment shake and possess us wholly. In the mean time the process is completed. Macbeth changes under our eye, the milk of human kindness is converted into gall; he has supped full of horrors, and his May of life is fallen into the sear, the
yellow leaf; whilst we, the fools of amazement, are insensible to the shifting of place and the lapse of time, and till the curtain drops never once wake to the truth of things, or recognise the laws of existence.—On such an occasion, a fellow like Rymer, waking from his trance, shall lift up his constable's staff, and charge this great magician, this daring practiser of arts prohibited, in the name of Aristotle to surrender; whilst Aristotle himself, disowning his wretched officer, would fall prostrate at his feet and acknowledge his supremacy. Morris.
This year, so afflicting to Mary, was the last in the life of Buchanan; and his ability, his virtues, and his demerits are too conspicuous to be passed without notice. Afflicted with the stone, and pressed down with the infirmities of old age, he felt the approaches of his dissolution, and prepared for it like a philosopher: he resigned his employments, and tired of the living, waited with resignation for the moment that was to number him with the dead. At Edinburgh, in the seventyseventh year of his existence, on the twenty-eighth day of September, a little past five o'clock in the morning, his spirit took its flight. The envy that attends on eminence, and the bitterness that fill the heart of an enemy, are commonly extinguished when their object is removed. But Buchanan was pursued with reproaches while in his grave. Many writers have described him as a monster Vol. n. o o