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• I have been defendling the out-works of our poétical hero ; fet me take a view of his large, and lofty citadel. Milton's poem is founded on our religion. Here the poet made a most judicious choice ; because by that choice, the sentiments of our best belief, and of our profoundest veneration, co-operated with genius ; to give a kind of reality even to the vast objects of his peculiarly amplifying, and creative powers. The choice was happy, for another reason. Conscious that those powers were of a magnitude almost more than human, he was determined that they should produce images worthy of their immensity. He knew that too excessire a greatness, in mind, in character, and in form, could hardly he attributed to the persons, and regions, which lay before him. He knew it; and he took a flight without limits : he saw, and he presented to our sight, the most contrasted, and astonishing objects ; perfect beauty, and perfect deformity ; beings of infinite dread, and of infinite majesty. His theatre is unbounded space ; its scenes ; its machinery; and its heroes, exist, and act, in unbounded duration. The descriptive powers of the poct; his spirit, and his fire, are congenial with his objects. Those powers either give us a calm, but heartfelt delight; they captivate our fancy with their serene, but expanded ch rms'; or we are irresistibly transported with their rapidity, and their ardour. Without any general, or infatuated prejudice ; but with nature, I hope, and reason, for me * Milton might dispense with those rules of accuracy which, perhaps, couli not, with propriety, be altogether neglected by any other p et; thouglı by a generous poet, they will never be minutely observed : and I wish that I had ability, and importance enough, to enfeeble the reign of their coercion. In his serene, and beautiful; and in his tumultuous, and tremendous scenery; he arrests our eager attention ; he wins all the interest of our heart ; he converts fiction into reality; he seizes, and holds fast, by his potent, magical spell, every faculty of the soul ;-by the thunder, and lightning of his muse ; or by the persuasion, and pathos of her eloquence. Who can object, and cenosure, because, in the fourth book of Paradise Lost, Satan, a spirit, invisible by nature, exposes himself, in a visible form, to the resentment of his ad.' versaries ; when, at the side of Eve, in the same book, he starts up, from the toad, in his own shape, at the touch of the spear of Ithuriel ? Who, that is endowed with the power of reciprocating fancy, can thus object, and censure ; can adınit comparative trifles into his mind ; while, in read. ing that exquisite book to which I refer, he is embosomed in the bloom, and bliss of Paradise ; while he imbibes the harmonious, the celestial strains, of our seraphick poet? Who, that hath learned the best of learoing ; to refine learning by sentiment ;--what active, and expanded breast, born with a passion for the great, and the unbounded, can harbour the frosty logick of criticism, can attend to the cold severity of reason; when they would restrain the poetry ; the inspiration of Milton? While such a reader, in the sixth book, a book of a more arduous, and astonish ing structure,: i$ agitated with as excessive rapture as poetry can give, and as human nature can bear ; will he not treat as a caviller, and a trifler; will he not treat with a noble contempt, or indignation, the critick who shall remind him, that ethereal substances are necessarily invulnerable ; and that it was, therefore, their own fault, if they were crushed with their
* We congratulate the reader who can understand this sentence. VOL. IV,
armour? Will not Johnson ; will not even Addison shrink in his eye z while, in dread conflict, Michael, and Satan are engaged ; the cherubinta, and seraphim standing aloof, in anxious expectation ; while the heavenly angels are appalled, when the cannon of Pandæmonium begins to play'; while those recollected angels tear up the mountains, and launch them at. the foe ;-while all creation shakes at the tempest of this war; all but the, throne of God!' pp. 136-139.
By being intimately conversant with Milton, our mental powers, and affections are purified, and exalted, to their highest degree of sentiment, by another cause, by nature ;, I mean, by their communication, and contact with a great mind. Milton's genius, as I have already observed, naturally pursued images for which it was formed; it ranged amidst the vast, and unbounded; every thing, with him, is upon a great scale. Hence, if we are not absolutely in the dregs of mortality, the productions of his genius dilate, and sublimate our souls with collateral ideas. Certainly we must leave all earthly dross behind us, when we mount, with Milton, to the gold that bespangles the firmament. When we survey the august, and stupendous forms of his heroes, and demigods; when we listen to their new, but striking, and inspiring eloquence; to an elo quence characteristick of their forms; we feel an ambition for true greatness ; for the noblest pursuits, and passions. When we travel, with him, through immeasurable space; through Earth, Erebus, Chaos, and Olympus; we look back on our own sublunary state with indifference; on human beings, with a mild superiority of sentiment. Our morality, and religion expand, with our excursions; we deem nothing so diminutiùe as human pride ; indeed, this “ great globe itself, and all who it inhabit,” seem but specks in the creation. If such effects are produced by a great poet, in the mind of the reader, I will not, with other criticks, elaborately endeavour to find a moral in Milton.' pp. 157, 158.
• What an extraordinary being was this man, whether we view him in his moral, religious, or poetical character ! It is almost impossible for an unprejudiced, good, and susceptible mind, which is powerfully actuated with the love cf poetry, and virtue ; it is almost impossible for such a mind to recollect the full memory of Milton, without paying to that memory an enthusiastick homage ; a kind of inferior adoration. I should suppose that no sensible, and feeling mind could read the following little plain account of him which is transmitted to us, from Dr. Wright, an old clergymap of Dorsetshire, without strong emotions. The Doctor tells us that “ Milton lived in a small house ; with but one room, as he thought, on a floor ; where he found him up one pair of stairs ; in a chamber hung with rusty green ; sitting in an elbow chair ; black cloaths ; but neat enough ; pale, but not cadaverous ; his hands, and fingers, gouty, and with chalkstones ; and that among other discourse, he expressed himself to this purpose ; that were he free from the pain which the gout gave him, his blindness would be tolerable." See Biog : Brit : page . 3116: note at SS. Compared with this poor small house ; and with its faded hangings of rusty green, how does the splendour of what Versailles was ; how does the pomp of the Escurial shrink ; and how are they obscured, to a vigorous, and well-regulated understanding ; and to an active, and generous fancy! thus compared, to what an insignificance does a Charles the Fifth ; to what an insignificance does a Louis the Fourteenth sink ; before the august inhabitant of that humble tenement ! before our moral, and poetical hero ! Pp. 222, 223.
- In the course of the work, there are many brief and often unsatisfactory discussions of literary questions. A flighty enthusiasm is ill adapted to speculation ; for this will often, in the critical department, require soine aid from metaphysics, the introduction of which, in any considerable degree, our author deprecates, with an emphatic condemnation of Lord Kames and his Elements of Criticism. It may be true enough, that Lord Kames had not himself a very delicate taste, and that he and other northern philosophers sometimes extinguish all the charm of literary beauty by an extreme frigidness in their process of inquiring why it pleases, and that, in pursuing, this inquiry to the utmost reach of subtilty, they entertain too much contempt for those more obvious laws of feeling, by which any reflective man may ascertain the immediate cause of his pleasure in reading any work of eloquence or true poetry. But we may be permitted to observe, that if, as our author maintains, criticism should confine itself, and if all liberal criticism must confine itself, to explain only the more obvious causes of the pleasure, and the more obvious rules according to which literary performances must be executed in order to impart such pleasure, it would seem almost superfluous to comment at all on works of taste, since, thus far, no reader of sense will need the critic's assistance, or thank him for obtruding it. We can feel but very slight obligation to a critic, who is to do little more than tell us that this passage is beautiful, and the other sublime; we were perfectly sensible of this beauty and sublimity before, and of an obvious and superficial cause of its pleasing us. It is a deeper explanation that we have to ask of the critic; we would wish to ask him, in the general, what is that relation between the constitution of our nature and the qualities of sublimity and beauty which empowers those qualities to affect us so inuch, and, in particular, which of the laws or principles of that relation is concerned in the emotion we feel in any given instance of the effect of fine writing. If he is not prepared to do this, or at least to attempt it, we cannot receive him with any high degree of respect; if he only proceeds to declare, here and there, his feelings of admiration, we shall be disposed to tell him that we also can feel, but that neither his feelings nor ours will be admitted by a third party, as the standard of truth in criticism; and we shall endeavour to persuade him, as we ourselves are persuaded, that we may all gain a good deal of advantage by passing some time in the company of the Caledonian philosophers, who will endeavour to explain to us why we feel, and to ascertain soine rules, independent of caprice, for distinguishing when we feel right. And our author may be assured, that no man ever had more occasion for a little of this philosophic lore, than he has himself, according to the testimony of this very perforinance.
In the lectures on Dryden, nothing struck us more than the lax morality of our author, who is, notwithstanding, a zealous declaimer for virtue throughout the book ; but he is so infatuated with the admiration of genius, that he secms to think it can do no wrong, as having something very like a privilege to frame a system of morality of its own, in contempt of that which has been instituted by the Creator of the world. Dryden very powerfully assisted to aggravate the depravity of the age in which he lived ; and yet, from a consideration of his talents, his ardent poetical feelings, his poverty, the vices of his age, and the persecution of churchinen, who with unparalleled malignity and presumption took it upon them to censure the profiigacy of his writings, the apologist contrives to make out that Dryden was a very proper man, and believes he was not without " the support and approbation of conscious virtue.” He closes the case with the following passage, which, if it had appeared in an abler work, would have deserved the last possible severity of condemnation.
• Dryden's plays are licentious; and so far they tend to be unfavour. able to virtue. ' But when he wrote, they would infallibly have been damned if they had been more chastised by morality. Congreve was never in the unhappy circumstances of Dryden, yet his comedies are far from being delicate. He knew that the manners, and taste of his time, demanded some moral sacrifices, if he meant that his plays should be successful. However, if stall-fed theology can convince me, that it would rather have starved than have written as loosely as Dryden wrotě, I will give our poet no quarter for his dramatick immoralities.' pp. 381, 382.
As to Dryden's poverty, and its attendant miseries, which have excited so much generous compassion and indignation in the present and many other authors we are afraid we do not feel all the sympathy that we ought. We know indeed, very well, that nature has made it absolutely vecessary to 8 great poet to consume at least a hundred times as much in diet and clothing as must suffice for one of us critics ; (and shis, by the way, is very likely to be one main cause of the hostility which we are sometimes reputed to feel against the tuneful tribe, whose voracity threatens us with famine)—bụt still we are very apt to excuse our insensibility with regard to Dryden, when we are told by Congreve that his hereditary incoine was a "competency" though he pleads it was a little more than a bare one," when we hear of his receiving for one dedication a present of 5001. fa sum of more value than 15001. now) and when we know that he had a prodigious facility of composition, and might, as a writer, have been popular without being vicious. Even this apologist, bowcrer, cea.
sures him for the debasement to which he reduced himself in his notorious dedications. As to the versatility of Dryden's genius, and the very high literary excellence of many parts of his writings, we should coincide with any language of ad. miration short of that extravagant one habitually employed by Mr. Stockdale. We will make one more display of the quality of his diction, by extracting, from the conclusion of the lectures on Dryden, a passage on the influence of poetry
• It gives a more hideous deformity to vice ;-more celestial charma ro virtue; the heaven-descended magick of poetry accompanies its disciple through every transition of his life :-it actuates, and brightens his waking hours; it whispers peace and serenity to his dreams. It habitually works his mind to a gentle emotion ;-a pleasing agitation; a delightful luxuriance of fancy. The surrounding objects take a similar relief, and he is in a stronger and livelier contact with nature. This poetical, and mighty magick, heightens, to his view, the tints, and fragrance of the spring ; it gives a purer transparency to the waters ; striking scenery to the course of a majeștick river ;-it elevates the moun. tains; it aggrandizes the dread magnificence of Heaven ;-it inspires a demonstra:ion of the existence, and providence of a God! We see, and we feel, that he was the authour of our solar system ;--and that “ he made the stars also !”
all this would seem Arabick, or romance; or even madness, to those, whose reading goes not beyond reviews, and whose virtue goes not beyond discretion. But I fatter myself,' &c. &c. pp. 401, 402.
Chatterton occupies nearly 400 pages, and gives a boundless scope to all the lecturer's excesses, which rush forth in denunciations of the illiberality and ingratitude of the age and nation, in fierce invectives against Horace Walpole, Mr. Bryant, and the good burghers of Bristol, adorations of the
who is now in the “ Élysian Fields,” in which, says Mr. S., “ I bave no doubt his vindicated and beatified soul enjoys eternal felicity,” and in awful intimations that the Almighty may never again“ grant an equal phænomenon to an ungrateful world." The whole voluininous amplification about this unfortunate young man is unnecessary and useless in a literary view, and parts of it are, in a moral one, really very disgusting. His genius is extolled to the last monstrosity of hyperbole; his persevering falshoods relating to the poems, and his well-known vicious habits, are extenuated into innocence, if not into merit, and even the spirit that impelled him to his wretched exit is partly applauded. He was a great genius, the world treaved him unhandsomely, and therefore he was absolved from moral and religious obligation. It was presumption to censure him if he scoffed at Christianity, if he abandoned himself to dissipation, and if he destroyed himself because he had not the