« AnteriorContinuar »
just mixture of simplicity and refinement in writing; and, therefore, not to wander in too large a field, I shall confine myself to a few general observations on that head.
First, I observe, "That though excesses of both kinds are to be avoided, and though a proper medium ought to be studied in all productions; yet this medium lies not in a point, but admits of a very considerable latitude. Consider the wide distance, in this respect, between Mr. Pope and Lucretius. These seem to lie in the two greatest extremes of refinement and simplicity which a poet can indulge himself in, without being guilty of any blameable excess. All this interval may be filled with poets, who may differ from each other, but may be equally admirable, each in his peculiar style and manner. Corneille and Congreve, who carry their wit and refinement somewhat farther than Mr. Pope (if poets of so different a kind can be compared together), and Sophocles and Terence, who are more simple than Lucretius, seem to have gone out of that medium wherein the most perfect productions are to be found, and are guilty of some excess in these opposite characters. Of all the great poets, Virgil and Racine, in my opinion, lie nearest the centre, and are the farthest removed from both the extremities.
My second observation on this head is, "That it is very difficult, if not impossible, to explain by words wherein the just medium betwixt the excesses of simplicity and refinement consists, or to give any rule by which we
can know precisely the bounds betwixt the fault and the beauty." A critic may not only discourse very judiciously on this head without instructing his readers, but even without understanding the matter perfectly himself. There is not in the world a finer piece of criticism than Fontenelle's “ Dissertation on Pastorals ;" wherein, by a number of reflections and philosophical reasonings, he endeavours to fix the just medium which is suitable to that species of writing. But let any one read the pastorals of that author, and he will be convinced, that this judicious critic, notwithstanding his fine reasonings, had a false taste, and fixed the point of perfection inuch nearer the extreme of refinement than pastoral poetry will admit of. The sentiments of his shepherds are better suited to the toilets of Paris than to the forests of Arcadia. But this it is impossible to discover from his critical reasonings. He blames all excessive painting and ornament, as much as Virgil could have done had he written a dissertation on this species of poetry. However different the tastes of men may be, their general discourses on these subjects are commonly the same. No criticism can be very instructive which descends not to particulars, and is not full of examples and illustrations. 'Tis allowed on all hands, that beauty, as well as virtue, lies always in a medium; but where this medium is placed is the great question, and can never be sufficiently explained by general reasonings.
I shall deliver it as a third observation on this subject, "That we ought to be more on our guard against the excess of refinement than that of simplicity; and that because the former excess is both less beautiful and more dangerous than the latter."
It is a certain rule that wit and passion are entirely inconsistent. When the affections are moved, there is no place for the imagination. The mind of man being naturally limited, it is impossible all his
faculties can operate at once; and the more any one predominates, the less room is there for the others to exert their vigour. For this reason R greater degree of simplicity
is required in all compositions, where men and actions and passions are painted, than in such as consist of reflections and observations. And as the former species of writing is the more engaging and beautiful, one may safely, upon this account, give the preference to the extreme of simplicity above that of refinement. We may
also observe, that those compositions which we read the oftenest, and which every man of taste has got by heart, have the recommendation of simplicity, and have nothing surprising in the thought when divested of that elegance of expression and harmony of numbers with which it is cloathed. If the merit of the composition lies in a point of wit, it may strike at first; but the mind anticipates the thought in the second perusal, and is no longer affected by it. When I read an epigram of Martial, the first line recalls the whole; and I have no pleasure in repeating to myself what I know already. But each line, each word in Catullus has its merit; and I am never tired with the perusal of him. It is sufficient to run over Cowley once; but Parnel, after the fiftieth reading, is as fresh as at the first. Besides, it is with books as with women, where a certain plainness of manner and of dress is more engaging than that glare of paint and airs and apparel which may dazzle the eye but reaches not the affections. Terence is a modest and bashful beauty, to whom we grant every thing, because he assumes nothing, and whose purity and nature make a durable though not a violent impression upon us.
But refinement, as it is the less beautiful, so it is the more dangerous extreme, and what we are the aptest to fall into. Simplicity passes for dulness when it is not accompanied with great elegance and propriety. On the contrary, there is something surprising in a blaze of wit and conceit. Ordinary readers are mightily struck with it, and falsely imagine it to be the most difficult, as well as most excellent way of writing. Seneca abounds with agreeable faults, says Quinctilian—abundat dulcibus vitiis ; and for that reason is the more dangerous and the more apt to pervert the taste of the
young and inconsiderate. I shall add, that the excess of refinement is now more to be guarded against than ever ; because it is the extreme which men are the most apt to fall into, after learning has made great progress, and after eminent writers have appeared in every species of composition. The endeavour to please by novelty leads men wide of simplicity and nature, and fills their writings with affectation and conceit. It was thus that the age of Claudius and Nero became so much inferior to that of Augustus in taste and genius; and perhaps there are at present some symptoms of a like degeneracy of taste, in France as well as in England,
JOHN HAMPDEN. The celebrated patriot, John Hampden, was descended from an ancient family in Buckinghamshire, where he was born in 1594. On leaving the University, he entered the inns of court, where he made considerable progress in the study of the law. He was chosen to serve in the Parliament which assembled at Westminster, February, 1626, and served in all the succeeding Parliaments in the reign of Charles I. That Monarch having quarrelled
with his Parliament, was obliged to have recourse to the open exercise of his prerogative in order to supply himself with money. From
the nobility he desired
assistance ; from the City of London he required a loan of £100,000. The former contributed but slowly; the latter at length gave a flat denial. To equip a fleet, an apportionment was made, by order of the Council, amongst all
' the maritime towns, each of which was required, with the assistance of the adjoining counties, to furnish a certain number of vessels or amount of shipping. The City of London was rated at twenty ships. And this was the first appearance in the present reign of ship-money—a taxation which had once been imposed by Elizabeth, on a great emergency, but which, revived and carried further by Charles, produced the most violent discontent.
In 1636, John Hampden became universally known by his intrepid opposition to the ship-money, as an illegal tax. Upon this he was prosecuted, and his conduct throughout the transaction gained him great credit and reputation. When the Long Parliament began, the eyes of all were fixed upon him as the father of his country. On the 3rd of January, 1642, the King ordered articles of high treason, and other misdemeanours, to be prepared against Lord Kimbolton, Mr. Hampden, and four other members of the House of Commons, and went to the House to seize them, but they had retired. Mr. Hampden afterwards made a celebrated speech in the House to clear himself from the charge brought against him.
In the beginning of the civil war Hampden commanded a regiment of foot, and did good service at the battle of Edgehill; but he received a mortal wound in an engagement with Prince Rupert, in Chalgrave-field, in Oxfordshire, and died in 1648. Hampden is said to have possessed in a high degree talents for gaining and preserving popular influence, and great courage, industry, and strength of mind, which procured him great ascendancy over other men.
ER father loved me; oft invited me;
days. To the very moment that he bade me
tell it. Wherein I spake of most disastrous
Of moving incidents by flood and field,
Which ever as she could with haste dispatch,
gave my pains a world of sighs ;
ERILY duty to parents is of the first consequence; and would
you, my young friends, recommend yourselves to the favour of your God and Father, would you imitate the example of your adorable Redeemer, and be made an inheritor of his precious promises; would you enjoy the peace and comforts of this life, and the good esteem of your fellow-creatures—Reverence your parents; and be it your constant endeavour, as it will be your greatest satisfaction, to witness your high sense of, and to make some returns for the obligations you owe to them, by every act of filial
obedience and love. Let their commands be ever sacred in your ears, and implicitly obeyed, where they do not contradict the commands of God: pretend not to be - wiser than they, who have had so much more experience than yourselves ;
and despise them not, if haply you should be so blest as to have gained a degree of knowledge or of fortune superior to them. Let your carriage towards them be always respectful, reverent, and submissive ; let your words be always affectionate and humble, and especially beware of pert and illseeming replies ; of angry, discontented, and peevish looks. Never imagine, if they thwart your wills, or oppose your inclinations, that this ariseth from