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command of a bastard, put a finishing blow to the contentions of foreign powers for the possession of this unhappy island; and completed a mixture of bravoes, differing in their manners and interests, each (as not being attached to one head by any principles of loyalty and affection) naturally endeavouring to advance his own partisans, and smothering that jealousy from constraint, which only waited for an opportunity to burst into a flame.
From this engaging portrait of our forefathers, a Chinese philosopher would be led to suppose, that the antiquity of a British family was its greatest stain. But so far is this from being the case, that even in this miniature picture of mankind, family pride is no inconsiderable feature; and some there are, who, though their only merit lies in a crowded vault, from that single distinction consider themselves as infinitely superior to those men of yesterday, whose meritorious exertions evince them to be rather ambitious of founding, than boasting a noble family. But from a probable supposition that this extravagant principle can only have taken root in the minds of those from whom it is impossible to eradicate it, let us proceed to that family pride, which has at first a more specious appearance, and if ingrafted on notions naturally virtuous, is more likely to produce good effects; that, I mean, which boasts not so much the antiquity as eminence of its family. Even this, however, though to a noble mind it is an additional incentive to great and glorious actions, if it happens to be cherished by a wicked or even a passive disposition, will be found to be equally ridiculous with the other.
If the good qualities of mankind were like those of cattle, hereditary, a virtuous ancestry would be the most desirable possession a man could receive from inheritance; but if experience teaches us that they so seldom are, if from the adulation with which men of family and fortune are generally from their infancy surrounded, it is very improbable that they should be oftener virtuous. What does a man derive from a noble family unless, that by the profusion of light in the back ground, the shade in front is more effectually exposed. To those few, therefore, to those chosen few, who consider that a noble family reflects either honour or disgrace only according to the use made of it by themselves; who reflect, that it is nothing more than a splendid burden, an additional tax on them to add one more to the distinguished list, to them may a degree of family pride be considered as an advantage. And among those, our little world may boast of having ushered no inconsiderable share into the larger theatre of life, who have since distinguished themselves as good and great men. Nor in
a public education so much evince its superiority, as in the equitable treatment our citizens receive from each other; and which, says Dr. Moore, often serves as an antidote against the childish sophistical notions, in which weak or designing men endeavour to inspire thern in after life.-C.
NOTES to CORRESPONDENTS. No Novelist, Two Senex's, and the COUNTRY GIRL, are received. The latter has a full right to the indulgence she desires, and will much oblige me by her future correspondence. I am very loth to refuse any thing to so fair a petitioner, as I take it for granted MATRONA is, and grieve that it is not in my power to accept her invitation at present, and oblige her by the interview which she solicits. In any thing else she may command me.
N°9. MONDAY, JANUARY 29, 1787.
Sit quodvis simplex duntaxat et unum. -Hor.
ne.-Rosc. There are few precepts, dictated like the above, by judgment and experience, which, though originally confined to a particular application (as this to the formation of dramatic character) may not be adopted with success in the several branches of the same science, and even transferred into another. The di. rection which the poet gives us here, to preserve a regard for simplicity and uniformity, may be applied to the general design and main structure of a poem; and if we allow them a still greater latitude of interpretation, may be found to convey a very useful rule with respect to the inferior component parts which constitute a work.
A venerable pile of Gothic architecture, viewed at a distance, or after the sober hand of time has stripped it of the false glare of meretricious ornament, communicates a sensation which the same object under a close inspection in its highest degree of perfection, was incapable of producing; when the attention, solicited by a thousand minutiæ with which the hand of caprice and superstition had crowded its object, was unavoidably diverted from the contemplation of the main design.
In all points which admit of hesitation, the sister sciences are found to throw a corresponding lustre on each other. The impropriety of ill-judged ornament, though connected as in the above instance with all that is awful and venerable, must be evident to the most superficial observer, and this circumstance should lead us to conjecture, that the same principle existed in a similar, though superior science. Originality of sentiment, vivacity of thought, and loftiness of language, may conduct the reader to the end of a work, though awkwardly designed and injudiciously constructed; while the nicest adherence to poetic rule would be found insufficient to compensate for meanness of thought, or vulgarity of expression. That these two faults should infallibly destroy all title which any writer might otherwise have to the name of poet, should seem self evident, and yet a fault which appears to be a composition of them both, has, in some instancés, past without reprehension, I mean allusion to local circumstance. I shall therefore make this paper the vehicle of a few observations on this practice.
Nothing can be more directly adverse to the spirit of poetry, considered under one of its definitions as a universal language, than whatever confines it to the comprehension of a single people, or a particular period of time.
Blackmore, a man now grown to a by-word in criticism, in the original structure of his poem was little, if at all, inferior to the great prototypes of antiquity; but that simplicity and uniformity so visible in the first design, was in every other respect conformably to the taste of his time, violated and neglected. It is said, that the most desolate deserts of Africa are distinguished by little insulated spots, clothed with perpetual verdure; and it sometimes happens, that beautiful passages present themselves in the Prince Arthur, as in the first book,
The Heavens serenely smild, and every sail,
Fill'd its broad bosom with th' indulgent gale. But when lines like these occur, we must consider it, to borrow an expression from a contemporary poet, a gift no less Than that of manna in the wilderness.
Scriptural allusions like the foregoing, were much in fashion amongst the poets of that period; and in this particular, so earnest a follower of it was not to be left behind; he has accordingly introduced his enchanter, Merlin, building seven altars, offering upon each a bullock and a ram, and attempting to
army of the hero, in imitation of Balaam, and with the same success.
Dryden himself is strongly tinctured with the taste of the times; and those Dalilahs of the town, to use his own expression, are plentifully scattered throughout his works, esteemed in the present age for those passages only in which he ventured to oppose his own taste to that of his readers, and which have already past the ordeal of unmerited censure.
Nor is that narrowness of conception which confines a work to the comprehension of a particular portion of individuals, less reprehensible or less repugnant to the essential principles of poetry; and of this defect innumerable instances occur in both the authors above cited, with this difference, that in one instance we contemplate with regret the situation of an eminent genius constrained by his exigencies to postpone the powers of his own taste, and submit his judgment to the arbitrary dominion of a prevailing mode; while in the other we view with indifference, an author, spoiled indeed by the taste of the times in which he lived, but who, had he not adopted theirs, had most probably succeeded as ill by following his own. Nothing is so common, as in both these writers to meet with expressions and allusions drawn from the meanest mechanical employments; at present infinitely disgusting to the general scholar, and (a proof of the necessity of observing the rule we have endeavoured to illustrate) to a foreigner, acquainted only with the learned part of our language, entirely unintelligible*.
* I would not here be understood to bint at any similarity in