Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

he fees what we wildly do and tamely suffer? What have we of nobility among us but the name, the luxury, and the vices of it? As for our ministers, what have they, or indeed defire they, of their calling but the tythes? How do these horrid prevaricators search for diftinétions to piece contrary oaths ? How do they rake fcriptures for flatteries, and impudently apply them to his monstrous highness? What is the city but a great tame beafi, who eats and carries, and cares not who rides it: What is the thing called a parliament but a mock, composed of a people who are only suffered to sit there because they are known to have no virtue, after the exclusion of all others who were suspected to have any? What are they but pimps of tyranny, who are only employed to draw in the people to prostitute their liberty? What will not the army fight for?-- what will they not fight against? What are they but janissaries, laves themselves, and making all others so? What are the people in general but knaves, fools, and principled for eale, vice, and slavery? This is our temper; this tyranny hath brought us to already, and if it continues, the little virtue which is yet left to stock the nation must extinguish, and then his highness has completed his work of reformation ; and the truth is, till then his highness cannot be fecure. He must not endure virtue, for that will not endure him."

We insert this extract, because few of our readers, we believe, can have had an opportunity of perusing the

pamphlet itself.

The age of which we are treating afforded a noble subject for history; and there never was an age of which the political transactions are better known. The history of lord Clarendon will be read by every person who wishes to acquire a profound knowledge of the character, politics, habits, and sentiments of these times; and, on the whole, it is not unfairly characterized by Mr. Hume. — “ His style,” says that author, “ is prolix and redundant, and suffocates us by the length of its periods: but it discovers imagination and sentiment, and pleases

us at the same time that we disapprove of it. He is more partial in appearance than in reality: for he seems perpetually anxious to apologise for the king; but his apologies are often well-grounded. He is less partial in his relation of facts, than in his account of characters: he was too honest a man to falsify the former; his affections were ealily capable, unknown to himself, of disguiling the latter. An air of probity and goodness runs through the whole work; as these qualities did in reality embellish the whole life of the author. He died in 1674, aged 66."

The memoirs of that plain and unaffected patriot, Edmund Ludlow, are not less interesting and entertaining than lord Clarendon's History; and these, as well as Whitlocke's Memorials and Thurloe's State Papers, will enable the reader to correct those mistakes into which Clarendon may have fallen, either from the want of adequate inforination, or through partiality to his friends.

The commonwealth of England was not deftitute of able lawyers; and to the names of those noticed in our preceding volume, we may add those of serjeant Maynard and secretary Thurloe, whose valuable collection of State Papers is mentioned in the preceding paragraph.

The most famous mathematician of the age was Wallis, Savilian professor of astronomy at Oxford. He had a long controversy on mathematical subjects with the celebrated Hobbes; but the genius of the latter was too much distracted with a variety of sciences to be able to maintain a contest with a man, who, like Wallis, had devoted himself almost entirely to one. Dr. Seth Ward, who was slightly mentioned in our last volume, flourished also at this period as a mathematical writer and teacher; and this and every other branch of philofophy was diligently cultivated by Wilkins, whom we had formerly occalion to introduce in his professional character as a divine. Bishop Wilkins may be considered as the father and founder of the royal fociety; for at his house commenced those philofophical conferences which terminated in the incorporation of that 1796.

learned

с

learned body. But of this subject it is our intention to treat more at large in our succeeding volume.

The spirit and fanaticism of the times was so hostile to the fine arts, that we have little to say of the productions of the English nation at this period, either in painting, statuary, or architecture. The incomparable Inigo Jones died'in 1657; and the merits of Wren were yet unknown in that line for which nature had destined him, though he was chosen professor of astronomy in Gresham college, in the same year in which his great predecessor Inigo Jones terminated his mortal career.

It is somewhat extraordinary, that an age so unfavourable to the fine arts in general should have produced some of the most eminent of our poets. To speak of Milton in terms adequate to his commendation, would require talents in some measure congenial to his own —

" Ingenium cui sit, cui mens divinior, atque os

“ Magna sonaturum Whatever is great in conception, sublime in fancy, or exquisite in expression, is to be found in Paradise Lost. Yet we must reluctantly confess with Dr. Johnson, that the perusal of this incomparable poem is “ rather a duty. than a pleasure.” The fault is, however, more in the subject than the writer. It is essentially deficient, as that great critic cbserves, in “ human interest ;” and the fenñible inagery under which the Supreme Being and the celestial existences are delineated, feldom fails to disgust the ferious rcader, while they afford a theme of ridicule to the sceptic or the libertine. It appears indeed a subject with which the human imagination ought not to have Yported; and “ the confusion of spirit and matter, which pervades the whole narration of the war of heaven, fills it with incongruity.” It may be remarked, that the few texts of scripture, on which that part of Milton's plot is founded, are evidently moft grossly mistaken by him, and have been much more satisfactorily explained by a learned author of the present age, in a moft ingenious “ Dif

fertation

sertation on the Passages in St. Peter and St, Jude concerning the Angel that finned * "

Of Milton's lesser pieces, those which have most de servedly attracted attention, are the Masque of Comus, and the Allegro and Penferoso. The first of these is certainly deficient as a drama; but it abounds in beautiful sentiment, in luxuriant description, and the true spirit of poetry. The two latter are unquestionably the most perfect specimens of lyric poetry in the English language.

Whatever commendation is due to Waller, is the very opposite to that of Milton. He is neither entitled to the praise of sublime invention, nor of exuberant fancy; but he is to be admired for the purity of his taste, and the harmony of his versification. His subjects are generally trifling; but he has the happy art of rendering even trifles interesting. His poetry was popular, because his thoughts are familiar, and seldom beyond the range of common life. It is a kind of colloquial poetry, in which that ingenuity which is most pleasing in conversation is predominant.

It is related by Dr. Johnson, that Cowley's passion for poetry was originally excited by Spencer's Fairy Queen, which lay in the window of his mother's apartments. “ Such are the accidents,” adds our biographer, “ which, sometimes remembered, sometimes forgotten, produce that particular designation of mind, and propensity to some certain science or employment, which is commonly called genius.The proposition, however, is extremely ill supported by the instance ; for certainly no man ever was more mistaken in the natural bent of his genius than Cowley. He was a man of science and a man of

he was even a man of wit; but he was not a poet. There is no sublimity in his conception, nor beauty in his expression ; the glow of fancy, the expanse of thought, the fervour of enthusiasm, are poorly compen* Printed, we believe, for Johnson, in St. Paul's Church-yard.

sated

letters;

fated for by antithesis and conceit; and his verses are as destitute of harmony as of spirit. His Pindarics are without elevation, and his amatory poems without passion. From this general censure we may except a few imitations of Anacreon, which are executed with spirit; but to transate is not to invent; and in this kind of compofition there is more exercise for wit than for imagination; and pointed expression only is wanted, and not sublimity.

Sir John Denham was Nightly noticed in our last volume; he was a poet during the life of his royal master Charles I. whom he faithfully served, and with whose family, at the expence of his fortune, he went into exile. “ At the restoration, he obtained,” says Dr. Johnson, “ what many missed, the reward of his loyalty.” Yet it is probable that he was more indebted for his promotion to his companionable qualities, and his agreeable manners, than for his attachment to monarchy. Denham is characterised by the great critic, whom we have just quoted, as “ the author of a new species of composition, which may be termed local poetry;" and it must be confessed, that Cooper's Hill, though the first attempt of the kind, still maintains its rank among many excellent pieces of the same description; and the best proof of our author's taste is, that he may be confidered as one of the first who refined and improved the poetry of Great Britain. His language is not obsolete, nor his versification unharmonious even to modern ears.

To this list of poets we might add the incomparable Butler, the glory and disgrace of his time,-a man whose genius is not less astonishing than the neglect which he experienced from a selfish tyrant and a profligate court. As his great work did not, however, appear till a succeeding period, we mhall not at present enter into any further contideration of his genius and character *.

* Macaulay's History of England, - Hume's History, - Biographia Britannica, -'Anthony Wood, — Biographical Dictionary, - Johnion's Lives of the Poets, -Clarendon,- Burnet,- Milton, &c.

BRITISH

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »