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Francia e P'Inghilterra sono rivali nella politica, nel commercio, nella gloria delle arme e delle lettere.'

“ This acknowledged superiority was, however, no easy conquest over that national pride with which every country is more or less tinctured. Every part of Europe was at one time or another candidates for this pre-eminence, which though they had not the good fortune to obtain, their attempts served in a subordinate degree to assist and refine the taste of their contemporaries. Thus Spain exhibited fine examples of humor; Italy of delicacy; and Holland of freedom in inquiry. But to blend these excellencies, and arrive at perfection, seemed reserved for the poets and philosophers of England and France in the illustrious reigns of Queen Anne and Louis XIV. The writers of that period not only did honor to their respective countries, but even to human nature. Like stars lost in each other's brightness, though no single writer attracts our attention alone, yet their conjunction diffuses such brightness upon the age, as will give the minutest actions of those two reigns an importance which the revolutions of empire will want that were transacted in greater obscurity.

“ Yet that excellence which now excites the admiration of Europe, served at that period of which I am speaking only to promote envy in the respective writers of those two countries. They both took every method to depreciate the merit of each other; the French seldom mentioned the English but with disrespect, put themselves foremost in every literary contest, and, to leave the English no color of competition, placed the Italians in the second rank. l'he English, on the other hand, regarded the French as triflers, accused the flimsy texture of their style, and the false brilliancy of their sentiments. Yet, while each thus loaded the other with contempt, it seemed as if done with a view of having their mutual plagiarism pass with less suspicion. In works of entertainment, we borrowed from the French unsparing!y; and they plundered our serious performances with as little compunction. Europe, however, regarded the contest with impartiality, and the debate seems at last determined. Their writings are allowed to have more taste, ours more truth. We are aliowed the honor of striking out sentiments, they of dressing them in the most pleasing form. If we have produced reasoners who have refined mankind, it is by means of French translations and abstracts that they are generally known in Europe. Their language has prevailed, and our philosophy.

let me cease a moment from condemning this worthy, however erroneous, part of mankind, on that side alone in which they are exposed to censure, and survey them as the friends of man ; while the great and the avaricious of this world are contriving means to aggravate national hatred; and, perhaps, fonder of satisfying vanity than justice, are willing to make the world uneasy, because themselves are so ; these harmless instruments of peace united,” &c.-First “And this is, indeed, all the English had a right to expect in a contest of this nature, nor have they any just reason to regret not being chosen supreme in taste as well as truth ; for if we only consider how different our manners are from those of every other nation on the continent; how little we are visited by travellers of discernment; how ignorant our neighbors are of our various absurdities and humors; if we consider this, it cannot be expected that our works of taste, which imitate our peculiar manners, can please those that are unacquainted with the originals themselves. Though our descriptions and characters are drawn from nature, yet they may appear exaggerated, or faintly copied, to those who, unacquainted with the peculiarities of our island, have no standard by which to make the comparison.

“ The French are much more fortunate than us in this particular. A universal sameness of character appears to spread itself over the whole continent, particularly the fools and coxcombs of every country abroad seem almost cast in the same mould. The battered beau, who affects the boy at threescore, or the petit-maitre, who would be a man at fifteen, are characters which may be seen in every coffee-house out of England. The French pictures, therefore, of life and manners are immediately allowed to be just, because foreigners are acquainted with the models from whence they are copied. The Marquis of Molière strikes all Europe. Sir John Falstaff, with all the merry men of Eastcheap, are entirely of England, and please the English alone.

Let us then be satisfied, the world has allowed us superiority in the strength and justness of our sentiments, for it hath truth as a standard by which to compare them ; we are placed inferior in regard to taste, for in this there is no standard to judge of our desert, our manners being unknown. Truth is a positive, taste a relative excellence. We may justly appeal from the sentence of our judges; though we must do them the justice to own that their verdict has been impartial.

“ But it may be objected, that this is setting up a particular standard of taste in every country; this is removing that universal one which has hitherto united the armies and enforced the commands of criticism; by this reasoning the critics of one country will not be proper guides to the writers of another; Grecian or Roman rules will not be generally binding in France or England; but the laws designed to improve our taste, by this reasoning, must be adapted to the genius of every people, as much as those enacted to promote morality.

What I propose as objections, are really the sentiments I mean to prove, not to obviate. I must own it as my opinion, that if criticism be at all requisite to promote the interests of learning, its rules should be taken from among the inhabitants, and adapted to the genius and temper of the country it attempts to refine. I must own it, though, perhaps, by this opinion's prevailing, many a scholium of the ancients and many a folio of criticism translated from the French, now in repute among us, would infallibly sink into oblivion. English taste, like English liberty, should be restrained only by laws of its own promoting.

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But to use argument as well as assertion, let us take a nearer view of what is called taste, examine its standard, see if foreign critics are just in setting up theirs as a model to us, or whether we be right in adopting their proffered improvements. As the disquisition, however, is dry, I shall study conciseness.

“ All objects affect us with pleasure one of these two ways, either by immediately gratifying the senses with pleasing sensations, or by being thought in a secondary manner capable of making other objects contribute to this effect. The pleasures of immediate sensation are coeval with our senses, and, perhaps, most vivid in infancy; the secondary source of pleasure results from experience only, from considering the analogy of nature, or the capacity a part has to unite to a whole. The pleasures of the first sort, are derived from the beauty of the object; those of the second, from a consideration of its use. The first are natural; no art can increase them without mending the organ which was to give them admission. The second are artificial, and continually altering, as whim, climate, or seasons direct. To illustrate my meaning. The beauty of a guinea, for instance, its regular figure and shining color, are equally obvious to the senses in every country and climate ; these qualities please the wildest savage as much as the most polished European; as far as it affects the senses, the pleasure a guinea gives is, therefore, in every country the same.

“ But the consideration of the uses it can be turned to, are another source of pleasure, which is different in different countries. A native of Madagascar prefers to it a glass bead; a native of Holland prefers it to every thing else. The pleasure then of its sensible qualities are every where the same ; those of its secondary qualities every where different. He whom nature has furnished with the most vivid perceptions of beauty, and to whom experience has suggested the greatest number of uses, in the contemplation of any object, may be said to receive the greatest pleasure that object is capable of affording. Thus the barbarian finds some small pleasure in the contemplation of a guinea ; the enlightened European, who is acquainted with its uses, still more than him ; the chemist, who besides this, knows the peculiar fixedness and malleability of the metal, most of all. This capacity of receiving pleasure, may be called Taste in the objects of nature. The polite arts, in all their variety, are only an imitation of nature. He then must excel in them, who is capable of inspiring us at once with the most vivid perceptions of beauty, and with the greatest number of experimental uses in any object described. But as the artist, to give vivid perceptions, must be perspicuous and concise, and yet to exhibit usefulness requires minuteness ; here are two opposite qualities required in the writer, in one of which his imagination, in the other his reasoning faculty is every moment liable to offend ; what has he in this case to guide him ? Taste is, perhaps, his only director. Taste in writing is the exhibition of the greatest quantity of beauty and of use that may be admitted into any description without counteracting each other.

The perfection of taste, therefore, proceeds from a knowledge of what is beautiful and useful. Criticism professes to increase our taste. But our taste cannot be increased with regard to beauty; because, as has been shown, our perceptions of this kind cannot be increased, but are most vivid in infancy. Criticism, then, can only improve our taste in the useful. But this, as was observed, is different in every climate and country; what is useful in one climate being often noxious in another ; therefore, criticism must understand the nature of the climate and country, &c., before it gives rules to direct taste. In other words, every country should have a national system of criticism.

“ In fact, nothing can be more absurd than rales to direct the taste of one country drawn from the manners of another. There may be some general marks in nature, by which all writers are to proceed ; these, however, are obvious, and might as well have never been pointed out : but to trace the sources of our passions, to mark the evanescent boundaries between satiety and disgust, and how far elegance differs from finery, requires a thorough knowledge of the people to whom the criticism is directed.

“ If, for instance, the English be a people who look upon death as an incident no way terrible, but sometimes fly to it for refuge from the calamities of life, why should a Frenchman be disgusted at our bloody stage ? there is nothing hideous in the representation to one of us, whatever there might be to him.

“ We have long been characterized as a nation of spleen, and our rivals on the continent as a land of levity. Ought they to be offended at the melang choly air which many of our modern poets assume, or ought we to be displeased with them for all their harmless trifling upon pincushions, parrots, and pretty faces ? What is rational with us, becomes with them formality; and what is fancy at Paris, is at London fantastical.' Critics should, therefore, imitate physicians, and consider every country as having a peculiar constitution, and consequently requiring a peculiar regimen.”]

CHAPTER VII.

OF POLITE LEARNING IN FRANCE.

We have hitherto seen, that wherever the poet was permitted to begin by improving his native language, polite learning flourished; but where the critic undertook the same task, it has never risen to any degree of perfection. Let us now examine the merits of modern learning in France and England; where, though it may be on the decline, yet it is still capable of retrieving much of its former splendor. In other places learning has not yet been planted, or has suffered a total decay. To attempt amendment there, would be only like the application of remedies to an insensible or a mortified part; but here there is still life, and there is hope. And, indeed, the French themselves are so far from giving into any despondence of this kind, that, on the contrary, they admire the progress they are daily making in every science. That levity for which we are apt to despise this nation, is probably the principal source of their happiness. An agreeable blivion of past pleasures, a freedom from solicitude about future ones, and a poiguant zest of every present enjoyment, if they be not philosophy, are at least excellent substitutes. By this they are taught to regard the period in which they live with admiration. The present manners, and the present conversation, surpass all that preceded. A similar enthusiasm as strongly tinctures their learning and their taste. While we, with a despondence characteristic of our nature, are for removing back British excellence to the reign of Queen Elizabeth, our more happy rivals of the continent cry up the writers of the present times with rapture, and regard the age of Louis XV. as the true Augustan age of France.

The truth is, their present writers have not fallen so far short of the merits of their ancestors as ours have done. That selfsufficiency now mentioned, may have been of service to them in this particular. By fancying themselves superior to their ancestors, they have been encouraged to enter the lists with confidence; and by not being dazzled at the splendor of another's reputation, have sometimes had sagacity to mark out an unbeaten path to fame for themselves.

Other causes also may be assigned, that their second growth of genius is still more vigorous than ours. Their encouragements to merit are more skilfully directed; the link of patronage and

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