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coup. Literary excellence is not the effect of an accidental ray of genius, nor of a momentary glow of enthusiasm ; the former must be tempered by industry, the latter by judgment. The mind must struggle with her new ideas, and, by reiterated efforts, reduce them to order and arrange them with taste. Man is born with an unwrought mine within him ; and, while he extracts the golden ore and refines the precious metal, he gives acumen to the very instruments, with which he works. No maxim perhaps has done more injury to the cause of letters, than that, by which a writer is directed to feel his subject, before he attempts its expression. We are led to believe, that if the sacred flame can once be produced, the whole composition will glow with an equal warmth, and that this excitement of mind will naturally be followed by a correct view of the subject, a just arrangement of parts, and a perspicuous and elegant language. Instead therefore of suffering the mind tranquilly to pursue her train of ideas, and by patience and perseverance to arrange them in a lucid order and clothe them in a just expression, an artificial warmth is excited, by which they are expanded into bombast, or dissipated into “thin air.” The mind of a writer must ever be at ease and, like the Alps, tower sublime and unmoved amid the conflict of the passions. No modern writer perhaps discovers more warmth of imagination or rapidity of conception than Rousseau. His success in letters however was the consequence of the unwearied exertion of a superiour mind. Je les consacrais, says he in speaking of his works, les insomnies de mes nuits. Je meditais dans mon lit, a yeux fermés et je tournois et rétournois mespe
riodes, dans ma tête,avec des peines incroyables. His works are composed with such spirit and enthusiasm, that we are disposed to imagine he never took up the pen, but when he glowed with those transports, with which he agitates the bosoms of his readers. It was, however, only by preserving a free and tranquil mind, that he was able so successfully to combine in his works every circumstance, which could add strength to his ideas, or elegance to his composition. In the imitative and mechanical arts we find that, independent of peculiar talents, success is generally proportional to the degree of labour bestowed on their objects; and may not the observation be extended to the art of writing 2 Is the exertion of mind in the latter less, because its powers are differently directed? or does it require less genius and industry to perfect a literary work, than is developed in the production of a painting, or a statue : A genius like Raphael, before he commits his images to the canvas, selects from the materials, which his imagination had collected from the works of nature ; he contrasts, . combines, disposes of his light and shade ; he varies with judgment and groups with taste, till having breath’d over the whole the charm of ideal beauty, he seizes the pencil and with patient industry gradually gives to the fleeting visions of his imagination the permanence of real existence. But this is not the effect of mere impulse. It is the creation of genius, aided by study and developed by industry. Hence also the writer, ambitious of literary fame, is convinced with Pope, that True ease in writing comes from art, not chance.
Like the painter, he attends to what may be termed the mechanical part
of composition. After the acquisition of ideas, which have been strengthened by reflection and chastened by purity of taste, he submits them to a correct arrangement and embodies them in a perspicuous and harmonious expression. From their continued attention to these three constituents, thoughts, arrangement, and style, results the interest with which the works of some authors are read. We are hurried along by a pleasing violence, and mistake the effect of the taste, the judgment, and the profound exertions of the writer, for the unaffected, spontaneous flow of nature. We seize the pen with a desire to imitate, but soon resign it in despair, convinced how near the perfection of art and the effusions of nature approach each other. These are the authors one delights to read. These are the sublime souls, that seem to have caught a ray of inspiration from heaven to conduct their fellow, mortals through mazes of errous, to the sacred bowers of eternal truth and happiness. The ancients, more honest than the moderns, acknowledged the difficulty of acquiring the art of writing well. They never imagined, that tardiness of composition necessarily implied poverty of ideas, nor that application damped the mental flame. They preferred the steady blaze of intellect to a meteorous brilliancy, which expires in the effort that gave it birth. For examples we might mention the poet Euripides, who was employed three days in the composition of as many verses ; and the orator Isocrates,whose Attick taste found exercise for ten yearson a single oration. The illustrious Cicero could not pen even a familiar epistle, without bestowing on it a degree of labour, which the economy of our modern writers
would hardly expend on an octavo. The author of the AEneid was twenty-seven years in perfecting that beautiful mental fabrick, which, like the Grecian temples, happily combines simplicity with grandeur, and dignity with taste. Even some of the moderns have been convinced of this truth. The celebrated author of “Les Lettres Provinciales” records, that he was agitated ten whole days in fixing the signification of a single word. The whole life of the musing Gray afforded the world, but a small bouquet of intellectual flowers, and even some of these were culled from the rich fields of ancient literature. These examples are sufficient to prove, that by those, who have most excelled in literary composition, fine writing has been considered an art, the acquirement of which depended on a profound and continued exertion of intellect. Ideas undoubtedly form the first object of attention, but language, though a subordinate, is still an essential part. Indeed the effect of the former results,in a great degree, from the character of the latter. It is by the union of these, that the Ciaraptured soul is fired by
“Thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.”
We cannot but admire, therefore, the pains that our authors take to send forth to the world their imbecile productions, which survive but a day, and then lie dusty and neglected on the bookbinder’s shelf, till they are transported, with other literary trash, to the pastry cook's or the trunkmaker's. To these writers, thus infected with the cacoethes scribendi, we would recommend the observation of an ancient painter, who, when he was accused of tardiness of execution, replied, Diu pingo,guum in atternum pingo, PHILAUTHOS.
*Widi, eheu ! miseros, Lucifero duce,
For the Months, Anthology.
o fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint,
On yonder hills, that skirt the eastern sky,
No seeming friend beside his bosom laid,
And through the naked woods when cold winds blow,
Thus flow his hours harmonious, tranquil, clear,
To the Editors, of the Monthly Anthology.
Gr. NT LEMEN, If the following be too trifling for insertion in the Anthology, it is requested, that it may be laid by without notice.
Thou canst not now drink dew from flowers,
And when my lamp's decaying beam,
Then will I listen to thy sound,
Recal the many-coloured dreams,
Perchance, observe the faithful light
I love the quiet midnight hour,
I love the night ; and sooth to say,
But see pale Autumn strews her leaves,
And in his train the sleety showers,
For the Monthly Anthology. GENTLEMEN, Several susceptible youths of your city having been lately employed in making woeful ballads to their mistress' eye-brow, it entered my noddle to attempt something after their manner upon the interesting object of my tenderest
FROM the dark gulf of comfortless despair
* Lately discovered.