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And I lov❜d on, and thou didst grow
And now soft looks alone might show
What oft my tongue had told;
And rip'ning years brought jealous care,
And fears, lest friendship cold
Should end my cherish'd hopes, and mare it to Jlqma
My heart's first dream, and prospect fair.
And sad thoughts told me that the years
That worthier hand would take from me
Yet, though thy visions melt in air,
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 "Fonum 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 malig
nant 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
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. us, "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 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 as firmly attached to its cause, as the pulpit. Addison boasted of having transplanted philosophy from the studies and libraries of colleges, into cities 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,