« ПредишнаНапред »
tranquillity of temper can bear. What, order me to. wear mourning before they know whether I can buy it or no; Fum, thou son of Fo, what sort of a people am I got amongst, where being out of black is a certain symptom of poverty; where those who have miserable faces cannot have mourning, and those who have mourning cannot, will not, wear a miserable face !
LETTER XCVII. .
FROM THE SAME.
IT is usual for the booksellers here, when a book has given universal pleasure upon one subject, to bring out several more upon the same plan ; which are sure to have purchasers and readers, from that desire which all men have to view a pleasing object on every side. The first performance serves rather to awake than fatisfy attention ; and when that is once moved, the flightest effort serves to continue its progression ; the merit of the first diffuses a light sufficient to illuminate the succeeding efforts; and no other object can be relished till that is exhausted. A stupid work coming thus immediately in the train of an applauded performance, weans the mind from the object of its pleasure, and resembles the sponge thurst into the mouth of a discharged culverin, in order to adapt it for a new explosion.
This manner, however, of drawing off a subject, or a peculiar mode of writing to the dregs effectually, precludes a revival of that subject or manner, for some time for the future; the fated reader turns from it with
a kind of literary nausea; and though the title of books are the part of them most read, yet he has scarce perseverance enough to wade through the title-page.
Of this number I own myself one: I am now grown callous to several subjects, and different kinds of com. position: whether such originally pleased, I will not take upon me to determine; but at present I spurn a new book, merely upon seeing its name in an advertisement; nor have the smallest curiosity to look beyond the first leaf, even though in the second the author promises his own face neatly engraven on copper.
I am become a perfect epicure in reading; plain beef or folid mutton will never do. I am for a Chinese dish of bears claws and birds nests. I am for fauce strong with asafætida or fuming with garlic. For this reason, there are an hundred very wise, learned, virtuous, wellintended productions that have no charms for me. Thus, for the soul of me, I could never find courage nor grace enough to wade above two pages deep into thoughts upon God and nature, or thoughts upon providence, or thoughts upon free grace, or, indeed, into thoughts upon any thing at all. I can no longer meditate with medi. tations for every day in the year; essays upon divers subjects cannot allure nie, though never so interesting : and as for funeral sermons, or even thanksgiving fermons, I can neither weep with the one, nor rejoice with the other.
But it is chiefly in gentle poetry, where I seldom look farther than the title. The truth is, I take up books to be told something new; but here, as it is now managed, the reader is told nothing. He opens the book, and there finds very good words, truly, and much exactness of rhyme, but no information. A parcel of gaudy images pass on before his imagination like the figures in a dream; but curiosity, induction, reason, and the whole train of affections are fast asleep. The jocunda et idonea vitæ; those fallies which mend the heart, while they amuse the fancy, are quite forgotten : so that a reader who would take up some modern applauded per, formances of this kind, must, in order to be pleased, first leave his good sense behind him, take for his recompence and guide bloated and compound epithet, and dwell on paintings, just indeed because laboured with minute exałtness.
If we examine, however, our internal sensations, we shall find ourselves but little pleased with such laboured vanities; we shall find that our applause rather proceeds from a kind of contagion caught from others, and which we contribute to diffuse, than from what we privately feel. There are some subjects, of which almost all the world perceive the futility, yet all combine in imposing upon each other, as worthy of praise. But chiefly this imposition obtains in literature, where men publicly contemn what they relish with rapture in private, and approve abroad what has given disgust at home. The truth is, we deliver those criticisms in public, which are supposed to be best calculated not to do justice to the author, but to impress others with an opinion of our su. perior discernment.
But let works of this kind, which have already come off with such applause, enjoy it all. It is neither my wish to diminish, as I was never considerable enough to add to their fame. But for the future I fear there are many poems, of which I shall find spirits to read
but the title. In the first place, all odes upon winter or summer, or autumn; in short, all odes, epodes, and monodies whatsoever, shall hereafter be deemed too polite, classical, obscure, and refined to be read, and en. tirely above human comprehension. Pastorals are pretty enough—for those that like them—but to me Thyrsis is one of the most infipid fellows I ever conversed with ; and as for Corydon, I do not chuse his company. Ele. gies and epistles are very fine to those to whom they are addressed; and as for epic poems, I am generally able to discover the whole plan in reading the two first pages.
Tragedies, however, as they are now made, are good, instructive, moral sermons enough ; and it would be a fault not to be pleased with good things. There I learn several great truths; as that it is impossible to see into the ways of futurity; that punishment always attends the villain; that love is the fond foother of the human breast; that we should not resist Heaven's will, for in resisting Heaven's will, Heaven's will is resisted; with several other sentiments equally new, delicate, and stri. king. Every new tragedy, therefore, I shall go to fee; for reflections of this nature make a tolerable harmony,
when mixed up with a proper quantity of drum, trum. · pet, thunder, lightening, or the scene shifter's whistle.
FROM THE SAME.
I HAD some intentions lately of going to visit Bedlam, the place where those who go mad are confined. I went to wait upon he man in black to be my conductor, but I found him preparing to go to Westminster. hall, where the English hold their courts of justice. It gave me some surprise to find my friend engaged in a Jaw-suit, but more so when he informed me, that it had been depending for several years. “ How is it posfible,” cried I, “ for a man who knows the world to go to law; I am well acquainted with the courts of justice in China, they resemble rat-traps, every one of them, no. thing more easy to get in, but get out again is attended with some difficulty, and more cunning than rats are generally found to possess !"
Faith, replied my friend, I should not have gone to law, but that I was assured of success before I began ; things were presented to me in so alluring a light, that I thought by barely declaring myself a candidate for the prize, I had nothing more to do but to enjoy the fruits of the victory. Thus have I been upon the eve of an imaginary triumph every term these ten years, have travelled forward with vi&tory ever in my view, but ever out of reach; however, at present, I fancy we have hampered our antagonilt in such a manner, that without some unforefeen demur, we ihail this very day lay him fairly on his back.