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Or Ethiopian's tooth, or the fann'd snow,
But enough of quotations. I might go oni to enlarge on the admirable sentiments, and maxims of morality, with which his works abound : it has been truly observed, that a perfect system of ethics might be extracted from them. I might expatiate on the skill with which he conducts and combines the different branches of his fable. I might extol the variety and brilliancy of his wit; and, perhaps with still greater justice, the depth and folidity of his judgment, displaying itself in the most profound and fagacious reflections, the most accurate and demonstrative reasonings. But I wave insisting upon these topics, because it seems to me, that in these respects, other writers have advanced, if not to an equality, at least much nearer to an equality than they have been able to attain in the points already mentioned, in the first and greatest characteristic of genius, the power of moving the passions and enchaining the attention; in the faculty of inventing and pourtraying characters, that fundamental excellence of the drama ; in the beauty and energy of style, and diction, and imagery, and in the power
numbers, and felicity and facility of versification.
I am not infenfible to the merit of the French writers. In every walk of literature, and particularly in the dramatic, they have, by their ingenious productions, done the highest honour to themselves and to their country. I acknowledge, that had
we not a Shakespeare to boast, none of our tragic pieces, unless an exception be' made in favour of Venice Preserv'd and the Orphan, could justly be put in competition with Cinna, Polyeucte, Athalie, Iphigene, and many other pieces of Corneille and Racine, which might be enumerated ; but in my opinion, Corneille and Racine themselves stand: at a much greater distance from Shakespeare, than Rowe, or Otway, or Fletcher, from them. For one Shakespeare, I believe, Nature forms many Corneilles ; and I should as soon expect to fee another Newton in philosophy, as another Shakespeare in dramatic poetry.
Voltaire pretends, indeed, that Lopez de Vega was 200 years ago, in Spain, exactly what Shakespeare was in England. As I have never had an opportunity of perusing any of the performances of that voluminous author, I cannot take upon me to controvert the assertion ; but, as Voltaire's ipfe dixit does not amount to demonstration, I shall beg leave to suspend my belief of it, till good sense and good taste become as prevalent in Spain as they now are in England ; and when that period arrives, if Lopez de Vega continues as much the object of admiration as at present, the universal opinion of so learned and enlightened a nation will undoubtedly form the strongest presumption, that his genius was of the highest class, and that his name and works are destined to immortality. This presumption now exists in favour of Shakespeare. I consider him as only entering his career 'of fame
and glory; and, to adopt the words of an animated writer, “ When the very name of Voltaire, and even the memory of the language in which he has written, shall be no more, the Apalachian mountains, the banks of the Ohio, and the plains of Sciota, shall refound with the accents of this barbarian."
Ben Jonson has been accused of giving a scanty and reluctant tribute of applause to his great rival ; but there is in his eulogium one line, one prophetic line, which shows that he perfectly understood, and freely acknowledged, his transcendent merit:
“ He was not for an age, but for all time.” And without question he is entitled to a place in the highest rank of that illustrious band
" Whofe honours with encreasing ages grow,
T has lately been much the fashion to speak in
vernment of Queen Elizabeth.—This celebrated princess, during a reign of almost half a century, and for a period of a century and half succeeding her death, was the object of universal reverence and admiration; and to this very day her name, to the bulk of the people, carries a kind of magic in the found; they consider her reign as a kind of golden age, as the halcyon days of perpetual prosperity and felicity; but several persons, eminent for the profundity of their historical researches, have discovered, to the great amazement of those who owe their knowledge to common report and information, that the disposition of that princess was arbitrary and imperious, that the maxims of her government were odious and tyrannical, that her authority was despotic, and that the political constitution of this country in her days bore a remarkable resemblance to that of Turkey at present. This, and much more, has Mr. Hume in particular asserted, in a very high and peremptory tone; and, as a necessary consequence of these
assertions, affertions, he has taken much pains to exculpate the two first princes of the house of Stuart, from the various accusations that have been brought against them, of introducing arbitrary and unconstitutional principles of government into their administration. According to the representation of that eloquent historian, those monarchs have been treated, both during their lives and since their deaths, with the highest ingratitude and injustice; and if this representation is just, England must pass for the most whimsical and capricious of all nations ; for, without any reasonable or assignable cause, Queen Elizabeth has ever been, and still is, the object of the highest admiration and applause, whilst the unfortunate James and Charles are regarded, the one with contempt, the other with detestation. But this account cannot give entire satisfaction to those who believe human nature to be constituted on certain fixed and immutable principles, and who are consequently inclined to believe, that opposite effects cannot well proceed from similar causes in similar circumstances.
Certainly Mr. Hume has no reason to expect that we should entertain a very high idea of that philofophy which cannot account for moral appearances upon moral principles, or which fatisfies itself with a vague or general solution, without attempting to trace the connection between the fupposed causes and their respective effects.
any one should ask how is it possible to account for the sudden diffusion of christianity in the world,