Графични страници
PDF файл

ness :

Friendship, the heart's precious treasure, time wrests from us by various means-by the most awful and irreversible, have I lost another object of my regard. Humane and gentle, tender and attentive to all that could affect my peace, did I ever find Dr Knowles, who lately fell a victim'to the duties of his profession. No medicine was found of power to expel the putrid venom from his frame, whose prescriptions had rescued so many from the grave.

Without the lustres of genius, or of that ignisfatuus wit, his intellects had strength and clear

his strict piety no shade of moroseness, and the kindness of his heart tempered a very inflexible sincerity. I must long regret the loss of such a friend.

Have you heard of the good fortune of that ingenious French lady, to whom we are indebted for Caroline de Litchfield ? Doubtless you

have read and admired that beautiful work. Gratitude for literary pleasures always interests good hearts, in the destiny of those who have bestowed them; therefore, I am sure you will be glad to learn, that the author of Caroline is indebted to the merits and graces of those volumes, for a transition from incompetence to the comforts of wealth ; from the unprotected dependence


of waning virginity to the social pleasures of wedded friendship. A rich widower, of fiftythree, on the confines of Germany, respectable in rank and character, whose children are married, and settled at distance from him, read that novel, and felt its excellence. Personally unknown to the author, he inquired into her situation, and found her merits acknowledged, her reputation spotless. He had the good sense to believe, that the acquisition of a companion for life, whose talents and sensibility had produced that work, would prove a surer source of happiness to his remaining years than youth, which, with her, was past; than beauty, which she had never possessed. He has married her. The instance is rare, Hymen, passing by the fane of Cytherea and Plutus's shrine, to light his torch at the altars of genius.

Adieu !



Lichfield, Nov. 15, 1786. Be assured I will write to you as often as I can, without shameful neglect of my old friends. More than this you have too much generosity to desire. There are circumstances which swallow up my leisure, for which you would pity me. Amongst that number is the being presented from their authors, with most of the fustian and vapid compositions in rhyme, which disgrace our press, from the nauseous writings of puffing Pratt, through the ranks of his kindred spirits. When these musifying hashes are set before us, there is no helping nibbling; the very sight of them makes us hungry after absurdity, though sure that the stuff will make us extremely sick.

But let me reply to the strictures of your last packet. Great Justice, thou art my Goddess.

I renounce all criticism, whose scales are not held by thee. You admire the beautiful verbal darings of Shakespeare, yet will not allow them as authorities in modern composition.

Fy! that is tyranny! You certainly have not studied poetic composition scientifically, though you may perhaps systematically, or you could not be desirous of abridging its vocabulary. Infinite is the importance of possessing a number of synonymous expressions, various in their accent, and various in their quantity. Shakespeare felt this, and boldly and nobly assumed the privilege of verbal creation. You are injurious to

[ocr errors]

the interests of the poetic science, when you wish annihilation to so precious, so useful a creation.

Now, as to your prejudices against the style of Johnson, which you possess in common with two more men of genius, who are of my correspondence. You have said great writers have great faults, and often write extremely ill. Nothing can be more true; and who oftener writes ill than Shakespeare? But let me observe, that nothing can be less fair, than to produce a turgid, or any way ill-written passage from a great writer, and, by its defects, pronounce upon his general style. I am not blind to the Johnsonian turgidities, and find them, now and then, extremely ridiculous. What of that? They, like the bombast of Shakespeare, are but spots in the sun. Where they do not arise, and they are far from arising frequently, strength, grace, and harmony, combine to render his prose what the world has at length pronounced it, the most perfect example of eloquent writing.

Voltaire has done by Shakespeare exactly what you do by Johnson : repeated passages, which are essentially absurd, and others, which are rendered absurd by his own misconception of their sense, and then triumphed over the supposed bad taste of the English in admiring such fustian.

Is it possible you can ask me who they are that consider Johnson as a fine writer ? My stars ! what a question! Was ever any man's literary fame more splendid and universal ? Are not the vices of his envy and malevolence hid in the blaze of his genius! Why, but on account of his superior eloquence, do the epithets great and illustrious so constantly precede his name? Many men have been more learned, many more virtuous, but few indeed so eloquent.

The enormous injustice of asserting that Shakespeare only had a right to enter the chaos of verbal combinations, for the purpose of extending the poetic privileges, and that its gates ought to be shut, after having admitted his writings, astonishes me in a man of sense, and in a whig, exclusive privileges being the very corner-stone of toryism. There is toryism in science as well as in government. I have not been accustomed to give my mind political hectics. Unable to serve my country, I have turned my contemplation upon pleasanter themes ; but the whig principles, on their broad and general basis, that of claiming for all men what is granted to some, have invariably been mine.

When you not only declaim upon the right of exclusive privileges for Shakespeare, but insist upon a magical establishment for them, there is

« ПредишнаНапред »