Page images
PDF
EPUB

But dearer, dearer far to me
Was thine own spirit, fair and free,

That o'er those features mord:
For thy soul's purity and grace
Found portraiture in thy sweet face.

Thy years were springing fresh, and ah!

I thought they bloom'd for me ;
And made thee as the guiding star

That rul'd my destiny:
And oft, when angry storms arose,
I calm'd my passions to repose

By memory of thee;
And precept mov'd me not so well
As thine example's holy spell.

O! tell me not that they have lov'd,

Who say 'tis idle all;
Who speak of talents unimprov'd,

And genius held in thrall :
Love lights high thought in warrior's breast,
And slumb'ring spirits wakes from rest

With soul-enliv'ning call;
Love bids the gen'rous mind explore
Fair Virtue's ways, and Wisdom's lore.

܀

And I lov’d on, and thou didst grow

In Beauty's fairest mould;
And now soft looks alone might show
What oft my tongue had told;

iivit
And rip'ning years brought jealous care,
With gloomy feelings of despair,

And fears, lest friendship cold Should end my cherish'd hopes, and marit to sha: My heart's first dream, and prospect fair...

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

From the earliest period of the reign of Science, there has existed no class of writers, in all the numerous branches of literature, so generally dreaded by those who court the Muses, as the Critics. So strong is the feeling of fear and envy, that the lash of the Critic has in all ages given birth to, that the “Fænum habet in cornu, longe fuge,” of Horace, is still, we are afraid, applicable to many members of this unfortunate tribe ; and the example of the ill-fated Zoilus, is perhaps, not unparalleled, even in this land of liberty and learning. The unmanly attack inflicted upon Dryden by the resentment of Rochester; and in still later times, a similar assault upon the author of the Mæviad, may serve to shew, not less than the cross of Zoilus, how rancorous and malignant a spirit prevails against the censor of the literary world. It is, we must own, a degrading, an invidious task, to blast, though justly, the hopes of a youth, who, like the courser starting from the barrier, ardently pants for literary fame, to damp at once the breast beating high with mingled fear and hope, with disconsolate anguish.

Yet the rugged ways of this seemingly baneful and unprofitable art have been honoured and adorned by the names of Aristotle, the father of Criticism; of Aristarchus, the loss of whose voluminous commentaries we have to regret; the truly-sublime Longinus, and the elegant Quintilian, among the ancients: and in later times, Boileau, Addison, Johnson, Porson, and the lamented Gifford, have deigned to apply their talents and their learning to this unlovely branch of writing. We should from the authority of these distinguished writers, naturally conclude, that criticism is not devoid of advantage to the interests of the literary world. Let us, therefore, in the first place, though it may be a disquisition useless to many, and uninteresting to most, of my readers, endeavour to point out those acquisitions which may arise from criticism to the cause of learning, when aided by talent and sound judgment.

It may be objected to us, what advantage can arise from an art, no less irksome to the censor himself, than to the unfortunate object on whom his thunders are destined to fall? We allow, that the hopes of many a youthful mind may have been abandoned, by too severe an exercise of the powers of criticism ; that many an inexperienced author may want resolution to confront the

us,

withering thunders of the Critic's brow; yet certain it is, that by the dread of that disgrace, which the Critic's thunders would inevitably bring upon a failure, the literary world is free from an unceasing torrent of bad writing and nonsense, by which it would otherwise be in danger of being deluged; while, on the contrary, the praise and encouragement of the Critic, has often brought into the favour, and even friendship, of the learned, a man of unaided, native genius, who might have been born to

sing unseen,” but for the friendly help of a being whom he thought would be the last to lead him to the paths of that renown which he so ardently desired. We have always considered the proverb, which teaches

“that we should not scorn to take advice from any one,” to be a maxim full of good sense and candour; which is happily expressed by Ovid ; “ Fas est at ab hoste doceri.” This advice might be followed with advantage by the writer, who, while smarting under the lash of the Critic, breathes nothing but fury and revenge against his censor. He forgets the motives of justice and candour that actuate the Critic to give praise to whom praise is due, blame to whom blame; and in his anger and fruitless indignation, he utterly loses sight of all reason and, improvement; and himself becomes infinitely more culpable than he supposes the unfortunate object of his wrath to be. By such conduct, he causes his own and the Critic's labour to be entirely thrown away; for the want of candour and equanimity is no more excusable in the author than in the Critic. A man of patience and industry will extract honey, instead of gall, from the. criticisms of his censor; he will survey his own faults

with an unprejudiced eye; and, convinced of the justice of the Critic's blame, will lay aside all thoughts of anger and resentment, and thus profiting from an apparent misfortune, will ensure to himself that success, which perseverance never fails of obtaining. Thus, in another point of view, the task of the Critic becomes productive of the most salutary effects to the cause of literature.

The Critic should, above all, engage in the sacred cause of religion, with no less zeal and ardour than in that of learning. All impiety, every word tending to profane its inviolate sanctity, should be peremptorily and effectually discountenanced ; and the critique should be ás firmly attached to its cause, as the pulpit. Addison boasted of having transplanted philosophy from the studies and libraries of colleges, into eities and coffeehouses; but here, criticism becomes an instrument in the hands of good men, for diffusing religion through pamphlets and journals.

: Let us now consider those qualities which give dignity to the character of the Critic, which may render him respected by all around him. The art of criticism may be made alternately the medium of the most salutary effects, or the most baneful injuries to the cause of learning. In the hands of an unbiassed and just man, it diffuses a spirit of equity, and liberality of candour and learning through the world ; a bad man, on the contrary, renders it productive of the basest party-spirit the grossest injustice, and of the blindest prejudice and ignorance. Candour, and a mind utterly void of that littleness and meanness of soul which are too truly objected to many of this class of writers, are the first requisites to the man,

« PreviousContinue »