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which I have experienced the candour and friendship of so many persons of merit; and in which I hope to pass some of those years of youth that are generally lost in a circle of follies, after a manner neither wholly unuseful to others, nor disagreeable to myself. POSTSCRIPT
It was thought improper to omit this Postscript to the Odyssey, as it is apparently one of our Author's most elegant and finished compositions in prose. It were to be wished he had enlarged on the subject; for a Critical Treatise on the Nature and Conduct of the Odyssey, is as yet wanting in our language; the Discourse prefixed to Pope's Translation, by Broome, being but a meagre and defective Extract from Bossu.
More than forty years ago, three Essays were printed in the third volume of the Adventurer, on the excellence of the Odyssey. They were designed to shew this excellence in the manner of conducting the fable, which is of the complex kind; in the extensive utility of its moral ; in the vast and entertaining variety of scenes, objects, and events, which it contains; in the strokes of nature, and pathos ; in the true and accurate delineation of ancient manners, customs, and habits; and the lively pictures of civil and domestic life, more calculated to keep our attention alive and active, than the martial uniformity of the Iliad ; and in its exhibiting the most perfect pattern of a legitimate Epopée. But the Author of these Essays confined himself to too short a compass for a subject of such utility and importance; and may perhaps, in some future day, lengthen them into a more formal Treatise.
I CANNOT dismiss this Work without a few observations on the true Character and Style of it. Whoever reads the Odyssey with an eye to the Iliad, expecting to find it of the same character, or of the same sort of spirit, will be grievously deceived, and err against the first principle of Criticism, which is to consider the nature of the piece, and the intent of its Author. The Odyssey is a moral and political work, instructive to all degrees of men, and filled with images, examples, and precepts, of civil and domestic life. Homer is here a person
Qui didicit, patriæ quid debeat, et quid amicis,
The Odyssey is the reverse of the Iliad, in Moral, Subject, Manner, and Style; to which it has no sort of relation, but as the story happens to follow in order of time, and as some of the same persons are actors in it. Yet from this incidental connexion many have been misled to regard it as a continuation or second part, and thence to expect a parity of character inconsistent with its nature.
It is no wonder that the common reader should fall into this mistake, when so great a Critic as Longinus seems not wholly free from it. Although what he has said has been generally understood to import a severer censure of the Odyssey than it really does, if we consider the occasion on which it is introduced, and the circumstances to which it is confined.
“The Odyssey (says he) is an instance, how natural it is to a great Genius, when it begins to grow old and decline, to delight itself in Narrations and Fables. For, that Homer composed the Odyssey after the Iliad, many proofs may be given, &c. From hence in my judgment it proceeds, that as the Iliad was written while his spirit was in its greatest vigour, the whole structure of that work is dramatic and full of action; whereas the greater part of the Odyssey is employed in Narration, which is the taste of Old Age: so that in this latter piece we may compare him to the setting sun, which has still the same greatness, but not the same ardour or force. He speaks not in the same strain ; we see no more that Sublime of the Iliad which marches on with a constant pace, without ever being stopped, or retarded : there appears no more that hurry and that strong tide of motions and passions, pouring one after another; there is no more the same fury, or the same volubility of diction, so suitable to action, and all along drawing in such innumerable images of nature. But Homer, like the Ocean, is always great, even when he ebbs and retires ; even when he is lowest, and loses