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His style, though artificial, is sometimes eleviiad; though familiar, it is never mean; and though employed upon various topics of theology, ethics, and criticism, it is not arrayed in any delusive resemblance, either of solemnity from fanatical cant, of profoundness from scholastic jargon, or precision from the crabbed formalities of clouded philologists, or of refinement from the technical babble of frivolous connoisseurs.
At the shadowy and fleeting reputation which is sometimes gained by the petty frolics of literary vanity, or the mischievous struggles of controversial rage, Jortin never grasped. Truth, which some men are ambitious of seizing by surprise in the trackless and dark recess, he was content to overtake in the broad and beaten path; and in the pursuit of it, if he does not excite our astonishment by the rapidity of his strides, he, at least, secures our confidence by the firmness of his step. To the examination of positions advanced by other men, he always brought a mind, which neither prepossession had seduced, nor malevolence polluted. He imposed not his own conjectures as infallible and irresistible truths, nor endeavoured to give an air of importance to trifles by dogmatical vehemence. He could support his more serious opinions without the versatility of a sophist, the fierceness of a disputant, or the impertinence of a buffoon: more than this—he could relinquish or correct them with the calm and steady dignity of a writer, who, while he yielded something to the arguments of his antagonists, was conscious of retaining enough to command their respect. He had too much discernment to
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confound difference of opinion with malignity or dulness, and too much candour to insult where he could not persuade. Though his sensibilities were neither coarse nor sluggish, he yet was exempt from those fickle humours, those rankling jealousies, and that restless waywardness which men of the brightest talents are too prone to indulge. He carried with him, into every station in which he was placed, and every subject which he explored, a solid greatness of soul, which could spare an inferior, though in the offensive form of an adversary, and endure an equal with or without the sacred name of friend. The importance of commendation, as well to him who bestows as to him who claims it, he estimated not only with justice, but with delicacy; and therefore he neither wantonly lavished it, nor withheld it austerely. But invective, he neither provoked nor feared; and as to the severities of contempt, he reserved them for occasions where alone they could be employed with propriety, and where by himself they always were employed with effect—for the chastisement of arrogant dunces, of censorious sciolists, of intolerant bigots in every sect, and unprincipled impostors in every profession. Distinguished in various forms of literary composition, engaged in various duties of his ecclesiastical profession, and blessed with a long and honourable life, he nobly exemplified that rare and illustrious virtue of charity which Leland thus eloquently describes:—" Charity never misrepresents; never ascribes obnoxious principles or mistaken opinions to an opponent, which he himself disavows; is not so earnest in refuting, as to fancy positions never asserted; and to extend its censure to opinions, which will perhaps be delivered. Charity is utterly averse to sneering, the most despicable species of ridicule, that most despicable subterfuge of an impotent objector. Charity never supposes that all sense and knowledge are confined to a particular circle, to a district, or to a country. Charity never condemns and embraces principles in the same breath; never professes to confute what it acknowledges to be just; never presumes to bear down an adversary with confident assertions. Charity does not call dissent insolence, or the want of implicit submission a want of common respect." Dr. Parr.
Of Lei and my opinion is not, like the Letter-writer's, founded upon hearsay evidence, nor is it determined solely by the great authority of Dr. Johnson, who always mentioned Dr. Leland with cordial regard and with marked respect. It might, perhaps, be invidious in me to hazard a favourable decision upon his History of Ireland, because the merits of that work have been disputed by critics; some of whom are, I think, warped in their judgments by literary, others by national, and more, I have reason to believe, by personal prejudices. But I may with confidence appeal to writings, which have long contributed to public amusement, and have often been honoured by public approbation; to the Life of Philip, and to the Translation of Demosthenes, which the Letter-writer professes to have not read before he answered it—to the spirited defence of that Dissertation, which the Letterwriter probably has read, but never attempted to answer. The Life of Philip contains many curious researches into the principles of government established among the leading states of Greece; many sagacious remarks on their intestine discords; many exact descriptions of their most celebrated characters, together with an extensive and correct view of those subtle intrigues, and those ambitious projects, by which Philip, at a favourable crisis, gradually obtained an unexampled and fatal mastery of the Grecian Republics. In the Translation of Demosthenes, Leland unites the man of taste with the man of learning; and shows himself to have possessed not only a competent knowledge of the Greek language, but that clearness in his own conceptions, and that animation in his feelings, which enabled him to catch the real meaning, and to preserve the genuine spirit of the most perfect orator that Athens ever produced. Through the Dissertation upon Eloquence, and the Defence of it, we see great accuracy of erudition, great perspicuity and strength of style, and, above all, a stoutness of judgment, which, in traversing the open and spacious walks of literature, disdained to be led captive, either by the sorceries of a self-deluded visionary, or the decrees of a selfcreated despot. DR. PARR.
Middi.eton was a man of no common attainments: his learning was elegant and profound, his judgment acute and polished; he had a fine and correct taste; and his style was so pure and so harmonious, so vigorously flowing without being inflated, that, Addison alone excepted, he seems to me without a rival. As to his mind, I am compelled with grief and reluctance to confess it was neither ingenious nor faithful.
Walpole had a warm conception, vehement attachments, strong aversions, with an apparent contradiction in his temper—for he had numerous caprices, and invincible perseverance. His principles tended to republicanism, but without any of its austerity; his love of faction was unmixed with any aspiring. He had a great sense of honour, but not great enough, for he had too much weakness to resist doing wrong, though too much sensibility not to feel it in others. He had a great measure of pride, equally apt to resent neglect, and scorning to stoop to any meanness or flattery. A boundless friend; a bitter, but a placable enemy. His humour was satiric, though accompanied with a most compassionate heart. Indiscreet and abandoned to his passions, it seemed as if he despised or could bear no