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Odyssey; not to mention almost all the similes of Virgil, which are no other than copies of those of Homer. The pre-eminence in invention, therefore, must, beyond doubt, be ascribed to Homer. As to the pre-eminence in judgment, though many critics are disposed to give it to Virgil, yet, in my opinion, it hangs doubtful. In Homer, we discern all the Greek vivacity; in Virgil, all the Roman stateliness. Homer's imagination is by much the most rich and copious; Virgil's the most chaste and correct. The strength of the former lies, in his power of warming the fancy; that of the latter, in his power of touching the heart. Homer's style is more simple and animated; Virgil's more elegant and uniform. The first has, on many occasions, a sublimity to which the latter never attains; but the latter, in return, never sinks below a certain degree of epic dignity, which cannot so clearly be pronounced of the former. Not, however, to detract from the admiration due to both these great poets, most of Homer's defects may reasonably be imputed, not to his genius, but to the manners of the age in which he lived; and for the feeble passages of the Eneid, this excuse ought to be admitted, that the Eneid was left an unfinished work.


To the admirers of polite learning the Lectures

of Dr. Blair, at large, are strongly recommended. The Extracts in this book are designed only as specimens of that elegant

and useful work, and for the use of Schoolboys. It would be unjust, and indeed impracticable, to give any more Extracts, consistently with the necessary limits pre

scribed to this book.

§ 144.

On the ancient Writers; and on the Labour with which the Ancients composed.

they were not so self-sufficient, as to imagine their first thoughts were above their own review and correction, or their last above the judgment of their friends. They submitted their compositions to the censure of private persons and public assemblies. They reviewed, altered, and polished, till they had good hopes they could present the world with a finished piece. And so great and happy was their judgment, that they understood when they had done well, and knew the critical season of laying aside the file.

The Ancients (of whom we speak) had good natural parts, and applied them right; they understood their own strength, and were masters of the subjects they undertook; they had a rich genius carefully cultivated; in their writings you have nature without wildness, and art without ostestation. For it is vain to talk of nature and genius, without care and diligent application to refine and improve them. The finest paradise will run wild, and lose both its pleasure and usefulness, without a skilful hand constantly to tend and prune it. Though these generous spirits were inspired with the love of true praise, and had a modest assurance of their own abilities; yet

For as those excellent masters, Pliny and Quinctilian, observe, there may be an intemperance in correction; when an ingenious man has such an excess of modesty and faulty distrust of himself, that he wears off some of the necessary and ornamental parts of his discourse, instead of polishing the rough, and taking off the superfluous.

These immortal wits did not preposterously resolve first to be authors, and then immediately fall to writing without study and experience; but took care to furnish themselves with knowledge by close thought, select conversation, and reading; and to gain all the information and light that was necessary to qualify them to do justice to their subject. Then, after they had begun to write, they did not hurry on their pen with speed and impatience to appear in the view of the world; but they took times and pains to give every part of their discourse all possible strength and ornament, and to make the whole composition uniform and beautiful. They wisely considered, that productions which come before their due time into the world, are author who designs to write for posterity, seldom perfect or long-lived; and that an as well as the present generation, cannot study a work with too deep care and resolute industry.

Varus tells us of his incomparable friend Virgil, that he composed but very few verses in a day. That consummate philosopher, critic, and poet, regarded the value, not number of his lines; and never thought too much pains could be bestowed on a poem, that he might reasonably expect would be the wonder of all ages, and last out the whole duration of time. Quinctilian assures us, that Sallust wrote with abundance of deliberation and prudent caution; and indeed that fully appears from his complete and exquisite writings. Demosthenes laboured night and day, out

watched the poor mechanic in Athens (that was forced to perpetual drudgery to support himself and his family) till he had acquired such a mastery in his noble profession, such a rational and over-ruling vehemence, such a perfect habit of nervous and convincing eloquence, as enabled him to defy the strongest opposition, and to triumph over envy and time.

Plato, when he was eighty years old, was busily employed in the review and amendment of his divine dialogues: and some people are severe upon Cicero, that in imitation of Plato, he was so scrupulous whether he ought to write ad Pirea or in Piraa, Piraum, or in Piræum, that now in the sixtieth year of his age, in the fury of the civil wars, when he knew not how to dispose of his family, and scarce expected safety, he earnestly intreated his noble and learned friend Atticus to resolve that difficulty, and ease him of the perplexity which it created him. Whatever raillery or reflection some humorsome wits may make upon that great man's exactness and nicety in that respect, and at such a time; 'tis a plain proof of his wonderful care and diligence in his composition, and the strict regard he had to the purity and propriety of his language. The ancients so accurately understood, and so indefatigably studied their subject, that they scarce ever fail to finish and adorn every part with strong sense, and lively expression.


§ 145. On HOMER. "Tis no romantic commendation of Homer, to say, that no man understood persons and things better than he; or had a deeper insight into the humours and passions of human nature. He represents great things with such sublimity, and little ones with such propriety, that he always makes the one admirable, and the other pleasant.

He is a perfect master of all the lofty graces of the figurative style, and all the purity and easiness of the plain. Strabo, the excellent geographer and historian, assures us, that Homer has described the places and countries of which he gives account, with that accuracy that no man can imagine who has not seen them; and no man but must admire and be astonished who has. His poems may justly be compared with that shield of divine workmanship so inimitably represented in the eighteenth book of the Iliad. You have

there exact images of all the actions of war, and employments of peace; and are entertained with the delightful view of the universe. Homer has all the beauties of every dialect and style scattered through his writings; he is scarce inferior to any other poet, in the poet's own way and excellency; but excels all others in force and comprehension of genius, elevation of fancy, and immense copiousness of invention. Such a sovereignty of genius reigns all over his works, that the ancients esteemed and admired him as the great High Priest of nature, who was admitted into her inmost choir, and acquainted with her most solemn mysteries.

The great men of former ages, with one voice, celebrate the praises of Homer; and old Zoilus has only a few followers in these later times, who detract from him either for want of Greek, or from a spirit of conceit and contradiction.

These gentlemen tell us, that the divine Plato himself banished him out of his commonwealth; which, say they, must be granted to be a blemish upon the poet's reputation. The reason why Plato would not let Homer's poems be in the hands of the subjects of that government, was because he did not esteem ordinary men capable readers of them. They would be apt to pervert his meaning, and have wrong notions of God and religion, by taking his bold and beautiful allegories in too literal a sense. Plato frequently declares that he loves and admires him as the best, the most pleasant, and the divinest of all the poets; and studiously imitates his figurative and mystical way of writing. Though he forbad his works to be read in public, yet he would never be without them in his own closet. Though the philosopher pretends, that for reasons of state he must remove him out of his city; yet he declares he would treat him with all possible respect while he staid; and dismiss him laden with presents, and adorned with garlands (as the priests and supplicants of their gods used to be); by which marks of honour, all people wherever he came might be warned and induced to esteem his person sacred, and receive him with due veneration. Ibid.


If we mention Theocritus, he will be another bright instance of the happy abilities and various accomplishments of the ancients. He has writ in several sorts of


poetry, and succeeded in all. It seems unnecessary to praise the native simplicity and freedom of his pastorals; when Virgil himself sometimes invokes the muse of Sy. racuse; when he imitates him through all his own poems of that kind, and in several passages translates him. Quinctilian says of our Sicilian bard, that he is admirable in his kind; but when he adds, that his muse is not only shy of appearing at the bar, but in the city too, 'tis evident this remark must be confined to his pastorals. In several of his other poems, he shews such strength of reason and politeness, as would qualify him to plead among the orators, and make him acceptable in the courts of princes. In his smaller poems of Cupid stung, Adonis killed by the boar, &c. you have the vigour and delicacy of Anacreon; in his Hylas, and Combat of Pollux and Amycus, he is much more pathetical, clear and pleasant, than Apollonius on the same, or any other subject. In his conversation of Alcmena and Tiresias, of Hercules and the old servant of Augeas, in Cynicea and Thyonichus, and the women going to the ceremonies of Adonis, there is all the easiness and engaging familiarity of humour and dialogue, which reign in the Odysseys; and in Hercules destroying the lion of Nemaa, the spirit and majesty of the Iliad. The panegyric upon king Ptolemy is justly esteemed an original and model of perfection in that way of writing. But in that excellent poem, and the noble hymn upon Castor and Pollux, he has praised his gods and his hero with that delicacy and dexterity of address, with those sublime and graceful expressions of devotion and respect, that in politeness, smoothness of turn, and a refined art of praising without offence, or appearance of flattery, he has equalled Callimachus: and in loftiness and flight of thought, scarce yields to Pindar or Homer. Blackwall.

§ 147. On HERODOTUS. Herodotus had gained experience by travelling over all his own country, Thrace and Scythia; he travelled likewise to Arabia, Palestine, and Egypt; where he carefully viewed the chief curiosities and most remarkable places, and conversed with the Egyptian priests, who informed him of their ancient history, and acquainted him with their customs, sacred and civil. Indeed

he speaks of their religious rites with such plainness and clearness in some cases, and such reserve and reverence in others, that I am apt to believe he was initiated into their ceremonies, and consecrated a priest of some of their orders*.

Thus, being acquainted with the most famous countries, and valuable things, and knowing the most considerable persons of the age, he applied himself to write the history of the Greeks and Barbarians: and performed the noble work with that judgment, faithfulness, and eloquence, that gained him the approbation and applause of the most august assembly in the world at that time, the flower of all Greece, met together at the Olympic games.

His history opens to the reader all the antiquities of Greece, and gives light to all her authors. Ibid.

$148. On the Style of Xenophon and


Writers who have displayed any of which renders it easily imitable, however that uniform peculiarity in their style popular they may become at their first appearance, by gratifying the passion for novelty, are by no means the most perfect writers; but are to be classed with those artists of the pencil, whom the painters distinguish by the appellation of is one of the most engaging beauties, is Mannerists. Simplicity of diction, as it also one of the most difficult to imitate. It exhibits no prominency of feature, but displays one whole, properly embellished with a thousand little graces, no one of which obtrudes itself in such a manner as to destroy the appearance of a perfect Xenophon is confessedly a model. He symmetry. In this species of excellence, has been called the Attic Muse and the Attic Bee. It has been said, that the Muses would express themselves in his language, that his style is sweeter than honey, that the Graces themselves appear to have assisted in its formation; but though all this praise is justly due, yet it would be difficult to point out any one beauty which recurs so often in the same form as to characterize his composition.

But the numerous writers who have imitated the Rambler and Adventurer, are discovered in their affectation before

* See Herodot. Gale's Edition, lib. ii. sect. 3. p. 21. sect. 65. p. 114. sect. 171. p. 156.

the reader has perused a single page. The very peculiar manner of those excellent performances has been easily imitated by inferior writers, and more easily caricatured. Addison is simple and natural, and, consequently, has not often been mimicked with equal success. Indeed, the nearear we approach to the manner of Addison, the more agreeable is our style; but, I believe, none ever admired the style of the Rambler but in the hands of the original author. The satirical writer of Lexiphanes easily rendered it ridiculous; and though, in some of Aiken's prosaic pieces, there is a very serious and good imitation of it, yet we are rather disposed to smile than admire. Affectation always borders on burlesque, but a manner, which derives its graces from nature, cannot be rendered ridiculous. The style of Xenophon, like the philosopher whom he records, is proof against the sportive and malignant buffoonery of an Aristophanes.

It is, however, certain, that every beauty cannot be combined under one form. If the style of Xenophon displays grace, ease, and sweetness, it is deficient in magnificence, in weight, in authority, and in dignity. But it should be remembered that the Venus of Medici is not to be censured because it wants the nerves and muscles of the Farnesian Hercules. It appears to me, however, that though some of the most popular writers of England yield to Xenophon in the softer graces, they greatly excel him in masculine beauty. The authors of the Rambler, of the Adventurer, and some of their imitators, will be found to possess a superiority in this respect, on a fair comparison. Indeed, if there were more singularities and deviations from simplicity than are to be found in those volumes, their excellent sense and fine morality ought to exalt their authors to a degree of honour far superior to any which can be derived from a skill in composition.

According to the opinions of the best judges, ancient and modern, the greatest master of the beauties of style whom the world ever saw, was the divine Plato. The ancients hesitated not to assert, in the zeal of their admiration, that if Jupiter were to speak in the language of Greece, he would infallibly express himself in the diction of Plato. He possessed the art of combining austerity with

grace, and sweetness with grandeur; and to him we owe a similar combination in the great orator and philosopher of Rome, who formed his style on the model of Plato, and has given us a resemblance scarcely less exact than that of the bust to its mould, or the waxen seal to the sculptured gem.

The introductions to the dialogues of Cicero are always peculiarly beautiful; so also are those of Plato. It is agreeable to call to mind the sweet spot which Plato represents as the place where his dialogues passed, in language no less delightful than the scene.

The river Ilissus glided over the pebbles in a clear stream, so shallow that you might have walked through it without any great inconvenience. At a small distance rose a tall plane tree, spreading its broad foliage to a considerable distance, and flourishing in all the mature luxuriance of summer beauty. At the root of the tree issued a spring, dedicated to Achelous and the Nymphs, and remarkable for its cool and limpid water. The softest herbage grew round its little banks, the verdure of which was rendered perpetual by the refreshing moisture of the spring, as it flowed down a gentle declivity. A sweet and cooling breeze generally breathed along the shade, and great numbers of cicada, taking shelter from the sun, resorted to the coverts, and made, with their little chirpings, an agreeable kind of natural music. Plato adds several other agreeable heightenings of the scene, where moral and philosophical beauty was taught to emulate the surrounding beauties of nature. The language of Plato adds charms to the whole as variegated colours illuminate and embellish the plain sketches of the penciled outline.

It is no wonder that philosophy, recommended by such graces as these, was found to render her votaries enamoured. Virtue and public spirit can scarcely ever want their admirers and followers, when they are decorated in a manner which sets off their own loveliness to the greatest advantage. It is to be lamented, for the sake of virtue, that lord Shaftsbury was a sceptic. His style was a fine imitation of Plato, and displays such beauties as might conceal the ugliness of a deformed system. Mr. Harris has also exhibited some of the Platonic graces; and I cannot help considering it as a mark

of defective taste that he is not more popu-
lar. His style, where it successfully imi-
tates Plato, appears to be one of the most
elegant, classical, and judiciously orna-
mented among
all the English writers of
the present century. They who have
raised their taste so as to perceive its
beauties, will consider the style of many
writers whom they once admired, as
comparatively barbarous. He who never
tasted the pine-apple, the peach, and the
nectarine, may probably suppose that he
enjoys the most exquisite flavour of the
fruit-garden while he is feasting on a
pippin; as he, who never partook of the
pippin, may devour a crab, and admire it
as a delicacy.

A critic of antiquity, Dionysius the Halicarnassian, has discovered many and great faults in the style of Plato. He seems to think the epithets too poetical, the metaphors too bold, the matter too allegorical. Pompey the Great disputed the point with him; and there is a curious letter extant on the subject, from the critic to the statesman. It is, indeed, obvious to remark, that though Plato would not admit Homer into his republic, he has admitted many of his beauties into his style; and has often written with an enthusiastic warmth, which they who have not partaken of the afflatus to which he somewhere pretended, cannot entirely approve. A cold critic, like Dionysius, would naturally be disgusted with it; but we cannot listen to his censures of a noble genius, who snatched graces beyond the reach of art, whom Pompey approved, and whom Tully almost idolized. When specimens of perfect composition were to be pointed out, the choice has fallen on the Georgics of Virgil, and the Menexenus of Plato.

Both Xenophon and Plato display what is more valuable than all verbal elegance, a fine system of morality, which long diffused over the world a light unequalled, till the sun of revelation arose. If Xenophon's memoirs were divested of a few superfluities and a few absurdities, I should not fear to assert, that they approach very nearly to the Gospel, in the exhibition of instructive lessons, and a sublime, yet encouraging example, of all human excellence; for, with respect to they calumnies advanced against Socrates, they undoubtedly originated from the father of lies. And those writers are to be esteemed the enemies to human virtue and

happiness, who employ their ingenuity in
detracting from illustrious and established
reputation, like his who taught the lessons
of reason and virtue, and practised what
he taught, and sealed it by death.
Knox's Essays.

$149. On XENOPHON's Memoirs of SoCRATES, and the Inferiority of Translations to the Originals.

A person who should walk about the streets of a great city like Athens or London, and give his opinion on all subjects to those whom he might happen to meet, would be thought, in the present age, a ridiculous enthusiast, or a pitiable madman. Yet it is certain, that he whom the world has long revered, as the wisest of mortals, dispensed his advice in this manner, and was, while alive, the object of envy rather than of contempt, as he has been, since his death, of admiration.

Socrates committed not the philosophy which he thus disseminated, to writing; and the world would have been deprived of the inestimable treasure, if his grateful scholars, Xenophon and Plato, had not preserved it.

Xenophon's Memorabilia or Memoirs of him, abound with a most admirable morality; yet I hope the admirers of ancient wisdom will pardon me, when I presume to say, that many of the conversations are tediously protracted, and that the great Socrates, in the abundance of his good-humour, trifles egregiously. It is however equitable to suppose that, to insinuate his important advice with success, it was necessary to avoid alarming the minds of his hearers, and that the beginning of his conversations should have an air of alluring levity. This levity was probably in unison with the minds of those careless passengers whom he addressed. It drew their attention. They would have shut their ears against every thing which he had to offer, if he had begun by professing a design to reclaim them from vice and folly, in a formal and severe harangue. They would have hastened from him, and turned his attempts to ridicule. But his jocularity detained them, and his good sense, in the conclusion, pointed out their errors, and taught them the expediency of a reformation. Yet though this may apologise for levity and trifling, in the actual conversations of the living Socrates, it T

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