Page images
PDF
EPUB

with as much clearness and certainty, there are instances of men of genius as Homer, or Euripides. It is ab- who could never acquire a knowledge vious, then, that if they did not at of the most obvious truths, simply be. tain to the same heights, it was be cause they were strictly intellectual. cause they did not possess an equal Alfieri says of bimself, that he could portion of energy and feeling, not not be made to understand the fourth because they possessed a less portion proposition of the first book of Euclid of intellect. They could not enter into for several years. To possess a gethe spirit of their subject, or identify nius for any art or literary pursuit, themselves, like these impassioned and is, in fact, to possess a strong attachglowing writers, with all the interests ment to it; and what is this attachof humanity. The writer of sublime ment but a modification of feeling. genius is always the writer of ar The moment we become attached to dent and sympathetic affections, who any individual pursuit, every thing feels every emotion and passion connected with it discloses itself to which he describes in others, whose our view, as it were intuitively. He bosom pants with that noble gene who possesses a genius for painting, rosity which is prodigal even of sees, even before he is acquainted existence, and with that sensibility with it's first principles, a thousand which sympathizes with sorrows not charms in that delightful art, wbich it's own. In a word, a writer of ge are productive to him of so many pleanius is he who places himself in all sures, though they are lost to others the situations in which he places his who cannot perceive the charms by heroes, who believes himself endowed which they are produced. To form with every virtue which he confers an attachment for any thing, is, thereupon them, elevated by every pros. fore, almost the same as becoming acpect which he opens to their view, quainted with it's nature. Hence it is, and afflicted by every distress which that brothers and sisters know each he obliges them to endure. If he other's dispositions better in a few leads his hero on to battle, the hopes years, than they can know the disof victory give redoubled ardour to positions of others in half a century. his feelings, and consequently to his A lover knows every movement in the imagination; for imagination is only mind of his mistress, or perhaps he the resumption of feelings with which is better acquainted with her heart we were once delighted, and the con than she is herself. It is, therefore, sequent realization of the scenes by, almost impossible for the nature of which they were originally produced ; any object to escape us, to which we or the creation of kindred, ideal become strongly attached; but we scenes, in order to revive kindred acquire our knowledge of it, not by feelings and emotions. The antici- reasoning but by instinct. A man pations of victory, then, have the same who has a passion for music wonld effect opon a writer of genius (by make a greater proficiency in six which I shall always understand a months, though he had not a particle writer of feeling) as if he were him of reason in his head, than Kant or self the person who was advancing Euclid would in six years. Genius, to the combat. He has all the ardour then, and impassioned feeling, appear and enthusiasm of his hero, without to me synonymous terms; though a any of bis fears; and therefore he late author of an “ Essay on Genius” describes the fight with a degree of confines it to men of strong intelanimation, strength of colouring, and lectual powers alone, and maintains vigoar of expression, which a writer that Pope had too much genius to of less ardent feelings could not com- be a good poet. He who approaches municate to his description if he nearest to universal genius, is he to possessed the combiped intellectual whom nature has granted that expowers of Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, quisite formation or structure of feeland Newton, Genius, then, is a faculty ing which sympathizes with almost of mind that removes as far as pos- every object that engages his attensible from the reasoning or discursive tion, or, in other words, which dispowers; and therefore the term ap covers something in every object which pears to me improperly applied to ab- gives him pleasure. But he whose stract reasoners. Genius

by no means feelings are not so flexible and yieldargues strong intellectual powers, for ing, and who can only derive plea

Eur. Mag. Vol. 8). March 1822.

[ocr errors]

sure from certain objects or pursuits, which our feelings seek after novelty : has only a genius for that particular for if we were satisfied with the first object or pursuit to which he feels object we met with, and felt no dehimself attached, and is consequently, sire to go in pursuit of others, our incapable of excelling in any other progress would be slow, our desTo possess the mind of a Locke, or a criptions dull and heavy, and our Newton, however, requires no feeling invention barren and unproductive. at all. To distingnish causes from The rapidity of idea, therefore, which effects, and relations from differences, results from the restlessness of our are operations of mind in which feeling feelings, their impatience of restraint, has no concern; and accordingly we and their thirst after novelty, so far find, that abstract reasoners have lit- from aiding the researches and intle feeling to boast of. Locke pro- vestigations of the metaphysician, or fessed himself to be an enemy to poe the philosopher, would frequently obtry: how well he was qualified to struct them. “One thing at a time,” judge of it, and to relish it's beau- is the motto of rigid science, and ties, appears from his high eulogium therefore the abstract reasoner never upon one of Blackmore's epics. It goes in search of new ideas, till he would seem, indeed, that much feel- first understands the old. Certainty ing is not favourable to metaphysical is his object, but this object can be or mathematical knowledge. Ardent obtained only by advancing step by feelings are always rapid and impetu- step. Every new truth must be proved ous in their career, and will not suffer þy what went before, not by what may the reasoning faculties to dwell too come after, and therefore if he venlong apon any object. They are always ture prematurely forward, he soon in search after new enjoyments, and finds himself bewildered in a labyconsequently hurry the mind along rinth of inexplicable principles, of in search of new objects of delight. which, though demonstratively true, Hence feeling is the parent of in- he is demonstratively ignorant. If, vention, which is the very soul of however, he possess ardent and lively genius ; for as it hurries the mind feelings, they eternally prompt him to from one object to another with great go forward, and will not permit him to celerity, and as every object sug- remain brooding over the demonstragests a new idea, it soon supplies tion of one solitary truth, when nature the mind with that abundance of mat- discloses thousands of more important ter which enriches thought, and gives truths to view, which requires neither luxuriance to expression. This is proof nor demonstration to manifest properly what constitutes invention, their rcality. Such, at least, will be and this invention is the offspring of the argument of a man of feeling, feeling. He whose feelings are not and therefore he seldom has patience impatient of restraint, nor eager of enough to endure that sameness and new intellectual enjoyments, who can uniformity of ideas which characterize sit contentedly with his mind fixed all abstract pursuits. That luxury of upon one object of contemplation, feeling which is the parent of genius, without feeling any busy instinct, or genius itself, so far, therefore, from or restless impulse, that prompts him aiding or promoting abstract knowto change it, cannot be presumed to ledge, can only serve to check it's possess that richness of imagery, fer- progress ; so that genius seems to tility of idea, and splendour of ima- be a gift confined to men of ardent gination, which results from the in- and enthusiastic feeling, intellectual ventive or creative faculty. Properly powers to men who possess that mildspeaking, the poet neither creates nor ness and gentleness of feeling which invents any thing, as has already been leaves the mind always serene and shewn in my Essay on General undisturbed, or otherwise that unLiterature ;"* and therefore what we bending rigidity or inflexibility of call creation and invention in poetry, feeling which yields not to the inliterally means nothing more than the fluence of external agency, and which rapidity with which the mind passes is almost equally incapable of pleafrom one object to another. This ra sure and of pain. pidity results from that eagerness with From the two classes of writers

* European Magazine for February, 1821.

which I have now endeavoured to more than their feelings, and to have distinguish, I am naturally led to rejected every judgment and senticonsider two other classes, which I ment which was not founded on prinshall call the second and third, or ciples of criticism, or dogmas of rcaintermediate classes. The second of soning. To this class, however, bethese classes seems to be the most longs some of the most powerful numerous of all others, and approaches writers ; but their general character nearer to the sensists than to the is marked rather by an ambition of intellectualists. I use these terms to de- being great than by the power of signate two classes of writers for which attaining to it. They possessed the no language has invented a specific power, indeed, if they had the skill name, simply because they have never to use it; and if they had been less, been distinguished from each other, desirous of convincing the world of the term genias being indiscriminately their intellectual might, they would, applied to every writer who excelled no doubt, have impressed a diflerent in either class. The second class character upon their works. But of whom I now treat, are those who they imagined, that while they were unite a considerable portion of the guided by rules and first principles, genius or feeling of the first, with the they set the world at defiance, and deliberation and judgment of the that mankind should admire them fourth class. Though I believe they whether they would or would not. would have obtained higher celebrity They were, however, as much misif they had consulted their feelings taken as the Abbé D'Aubignac, who oteper, and cultivated their under- maintained, after writing his first trastandings less, I am still inclined to gedy, that he was the only author who think, that literature is more indebted strictly observed the rules of Aristoto them than to all the other classes of tle. Unfortunately, however, his trawriters put together. Nature per- gedy was publicly reprobated, If haps originally endowed many of them the class of writers of whom I now with the warmth, feeling, and enthu- treat, confined themselves totally to siasm of the first class, but this enthu- abstract subjects, the greater part of siasm does not appcar in their writ- them would probably rank with the ings; for the critical accuracy with fourth class, but they lost themselves which they were taught to examine when they made human nature their every sentiment and opinion, mode- subject, and still carried their prinrated, in a very sensible degree, the ciples and dogmas along with them, native energy of their feelings. They Human nature is no subject for reaalways endeavoured to reconcile them soning. It is an inexplicable system with canons of criticism, and princi- of laws which are made known to us ples of taste, sanctioned by the autho- by observation, but which can never nity of other writers. They did not, be accounted for by reason. As this however, like the third class, suffer class of writers, then, could not rethemselves to be guided by autho- linquish their principles and axioms, rity and principles, whenever they they ought to have confined themwere at variance with their own feel- selves to subjects in which princiings; for even he who seems to have ples and axioms alone could guide most respected authority among them, ihem to certainty : nor is there any teaches us to “snatch a grace beyond reason to conclude, that they would the reach of art.” The correctness not have attained to the highest ceand delicacy of their feelings tanght lebrity in such subjects, from their them to discriminate, and to imitate failure in others. The Abbé whom the beauties of works of taste, of I have just mentioned obtained a high which the fourth class were incom- reputation by bis Pratique du Theatre, petent to offer an opinion, because though he failed in his tragedy, simply to judge of them, they should be felt because he had principles in abunas well as perceived. Nothing is dance to write an elementary work, known to be beautiful until it is first whereas he wanted that feeling which

alone could have made him acqnaintBetween this and the fourth, there is ed with the human heart; for this another class of writers, who seem to knowledge, as I have already obbare exercised their understandings served, is not gained by reasoning,

to be so.

but by instinct. He failed, therefore, dency of their genius; as it appears in his tragedy, because it was a sub- from the observations wbich I have ject founded in human nature, with already made, that two writers may which he could never become ac possess equal powers of mind, and quainted through the medium of rea possess a genius extremely dissimilar, son, or Aristotelian principles. To This dissimilarity will encrease in proknow human nature, we niust study portion as they recede from each other the feelings, and not the thoughts or to the opposite extremes of reason reasonings, of mankind. It is in this and of feeling. It does not follow, knowledge the third class of writers however, that reason and feeling seem to bave been principaly defi- should be at variance with each other: cient. They wanted good taste, sim on the contrary, reason whenever it is ply because they wanted feeling and founded in truth, and feeling whenabounded in reason. They possessed ever it is founded in nature, will' not, therefore, the delightful enthu- always agree, and approve of each siasm of the first class, nor the more other. But though reason and feeltempered ardour and chastened energy ing will agree, they are not still the of the second. The principal wri- same ;-they are different attributes ters belonging to those two classos' of mind, or of human nature ; and, are,

accordingly, a writer of feeling, though

he may carry reason along with him 2d Class.

3d Class. from beginning to end, possesses a Virgil Isocrates

very different genius from a writer Lucretius Seneca

who has his eye eternally fixed upon Cicero Lucan

reason alone, as the polestar by which Horace Plato

his course should be always directed Terence

Aristophanes in the pursuits of literature. The Quintillian Pacuvius

writer of feeling seems to be guided Herodotus Actius

by no polestar, and to yield, unTbncydides Persius

hesitatingly, to the impulse of his own Cæsar Silius

feelings, which, however, by a sort Menander Statius

of magnetic attraction, guides him Xenophon Martial

with as much certainty in subjects Escbines Juvenal

of feeling as the polestar of reason Tasso Pascal guides the philosopher.

He seems Petraroh Dacier

to catch reason by inspiration, or, Vida Arnauld

at least, by intuition ; so that when Erasmus Bossuet

ho reasons most profoundly, he apRacine Scaliger

pears not to reason at all. Whatever Boileau Le Clerc

he says seems to be said instinctively, Crebillon Malherbe

and so it is, in general; for wherever Fenelon La Harpe

the feelings are correct and natural, Fontaine Bourdaloue reason comes unsought for. Reason Politian

Shaftesbury seems always difficult of access when Montesquieu Bolingbroke we labour to obtain her; but when we Dryden Young

seem to despise her, and to seek from Pope

Blackmore our own feelings that knowledge of Addison Cowper,

which she is so frugal, she comes unGray

solicited, and discloses to us the exSwift

haustless treasures of intellect which Collins

are committed to her care. The most Johnson

ardent and impassioned writers, howBurke

ever, exercise their reason as well as Blair

the most frigid, but they neither conLessing

sult it so often, nor are they guided Schiller

by it when their feelings revolt against Alfieri.

the judgment which it pronounces.

In each of the four classes of geIt is obvious that these four classes nius' which I have distinguished from are not ranked according to their wc- each other, there are different orders rit, but according to the kindred teu- or gradations of intellect, though the

mental powers of any writer cannot be his own understanding, inclines him inferred from the class to which he be- to despise feeling, will soon lose all longs. But though we cannot infer the attachment to virtue, because virtue merits of any writer from his class, itself is only a modification of feelit is certain, however, that the first ing. It is not the manner in which and fourth classes are the most dis we think, but the manner in which tinguished. The first class possesses we feel, that makes us either virtuous more genius, the fourth stronger in- or vicious ;, and therefore the man tellectual powers. The cause is ac- who never takes feeling into account, counted for by the distinction which nor suffers bimself to be directed by I have made between reason and feel- it's secret guidance, will not long reing; for reason is the highest exercise tain any feeling to consult, and conseof the intellectual powers, and genius quently must become incapable of rethe offspring of ardent feelings and im- lishing virtue. It is certain, however, passioned sensibility. The first class that no writer ever pleased mankind we love, because they speak to our whose sentiments did not appear to be hearts; the fourth class we admire, founded in a virtuous feeling. Man is because we find it difficult to pursue naturally virtuous; and though he may them through the depths of science, be sednced for a moment to sancto investigate with them the attri- tion licentious wit by an approving butes of material and immaterial be- smile, he soon begins to despise it's ing, and to ascend with them to the author. Virtue is not an enemy to contemplation of effects which can pleasure, and therefore a writer may be traced only to the universal cause. please without corrupting us. Tbese writers have done what could be

“ Not to turn human brutal, but to build done in the intellectual pursuits to Divine on human, pleasure came from which they devoted themselves ; but

heaven: they are seldom to be depended upon In aid to reason was the goddess sent, in their views of human nature, though To call up all it's strength by such a the science with which every man

charm. ought to be best acquainted. To Pleasure first succours virtue ; in return, know human nature, we must not Virtue gives pleasure an eternal reign.'

YOUNG. only reason but feel ; and therefore the world is more indebted to the Having thus attempted to classify third or middle class of writers than the different orders of kindred geto either the first or fourth-class, be- niuses, I shall now proceed in my cause they exercised the deliberative enquiry into the genius of Milton, and sensitive faculties in nearly an the class to which he belongs, and equal degree. The first class never the rank which he holds in this class. thought of improving mankind. They I shall observe the same method with wrote only to please themselves, and regard to every poet of whom I shall by so doing they have pleased the hereafter treat ; so that the reader world. But the world must seek will be able to perceive, as in a scale elsewhere for that knowledge which of genius, not only the class to which is most valuable; namely, that happy every poet belongs, but also the situamedium of thought in which it is diffi- tion which he holds, or, at least, which cult to determine whether the dic- I imagine he ought to hold in it. I tates of reason, or the suggestions shall not, however, determine arbiof feeling, predominate most. He who trarily; and the reasons which I shall gives an unlimitted rein to the un- assign for the rank in which I place examined impulse of every feeling, him, if they do not convince the must frequently deviate from virtue, reader, may, perhaps, lead him into or that line of rectitude which all that train of investigation which will men acknowledge ought to be pur- enable him to judge for himself, and to sued, even when nature has endowed assign him that just degree of elevahim with the most amiable disposi- tion in the scale to which his genius tion; and he whose pride of know- entitles him. ledge, or reliance on the strength of

M. M. D.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »