Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

He

external signs, yet we wish, that he had examined the subject Itill more minutely, and taken into consideration some exceptions to the general principles he endeavours to establish. We agree with him, that “ Man is provided by nature with a sense or faculty which lays open to him every pasion by means of its external expressions.” But with respect to " the permanent signs which serve to denote the disposition or temper,” how frequently do they mislead us? How often do rigid features and a sullen brow indicate a character to be austere and morose, which, upon more intimate acquaintance, we find to be placid and benevolent? On the contrary, how frequently does a natural openness and benignity of aspect serve to disguise a rancorous and malevolent disposition ? In short, the permanent signs, indicative of character, frequently deceive the nicest phyfiognomist.

In treating of sentiments, in the ensuing chapter, his Lordship observes, that the knowledge of the sentiments peculiar to each paflion, considered abstractedly, will not alone enable an artist to make a just representation of nature. ought also to be acquainted with the various appearances of the fame passion in different perfons. A passion therefore fhould be adjusted to the character, the sentiments to the palfion, and the language to the sentiments. The learned Writer observes, that an ordinary genius, instead of expressing a paflion like one who is under its power, contents himself with describing it like a spectator : and he gives examples of sentiments that appear the legitimate offspring of passion; to which he oppoles others that are descriptive only, and illegitimate. For the first, he quotes Shakespeare's King Lear; and cites Corneille's Cinna to illustrate the latter. He then proceeds to a more particular and curious analysis. fions, he observes, are seldom uniform for any considerable time; they generally, Auctuate, swelling and subsiding by turns, often in a quick succession. A climax therefore never Thews better than in exprelling a swelling passion.” Alme, ia.

Howhalt thou charmn'd
The wildness of the waves and rocks to this,
That thus relenting, they have given thee back

To carth, to light and life, to love and me? As things are best illustrated by their contraries, his Lordship proceeds to collect faulty sentiments of various kinds, from claflical authors. And the first instance he produces, is, of such as are faulty by being above the tone of the pasGon.

66 Par

[blocks in formation]

O my

Othello.

foul's joy!
If after every tempest come such calms,
May the winds blow till they have wakend death :
And let the labouring bark climb hills of feas
Clympus high, and duck again as low

As hell's from heaven! « This sentiment, fays our Author, is too strong to be fuggested by so fight a joy as that of meeting after a storm at

Here his Lordship will pardon us if we cannot subfcribe to the justice of his criticism. For we cannot conceive that a meeting after a storm at sea, even between indifferent persons, can, with any propriety, be termed a flight joy. But his Lordship's censure appears the more exceptionable, when we consider the vchemence and enthusiasm of Othello's character; and that the meeting was between him and his beloved Desdemona, his new-married bride, who had escaped a dreadful tempeft, and whom he did not expect to find on shore ; for in the opening of the speech he says,

It gives me wonder, great as my content,

To see you here before me. My soul's joy, &c. Surely if such high-flown expreffion as Shakespeare has put in his mouth, is at any time justifiable, it must be on such an occafion!

The second instance his Lordship produces is of sentiments below the tone of paflion. The next, of such as agree not with that tone; as, where the sentiments are too gay for a ferious paflion

Heav'o firit taught letters for some wretch’s aid,
Some banith'd lover, or some captive maid ;
'Thcy I've, they speak, they breathe what love inspires,
Warm from the jou!, and faithful to its fires;
The virgin's wilh without her fears impart,
Excuse the bluth, and pour forth all the heart;
Speed the soft intercourle fiom soul to foul,

And wafc a sigh from Indus to the pole. “ These thoughts, our Author remarks, are pretty; they fuit Pope extremely; but not loisa.” It may be a question, however, whether his Lordship’s criticism is not rather too refined. Perhaps there amorous and glowing sentiments are not altogether unfuitable to the warm imagination and exquifite fenfibility of Eloisa, who, deprived of all intercourse between her and the object of her love, but by epistolary correfpondence, dwells and expaliates on that only comfort.

The

The next instance, is, of sentiments too artificial for a ferious paflion. Fanciful or finical sentiments, which degenerate into point or conceit, are censured in the next place.

Give me your drops, ye soft-descending rains,
Give me your streams, ye never reasing springs,
That my sad eyes may llill fupi, my duty,

And feed an everlasting flood of forrow. His Lordship proceeds to point out other instances of faulty sentiments in the best writers. His remarks are frequently keen and sagacious; and even where he mistakes, his errors are the errors of genius.

The chapter concerning the language of passion is curious and entertaining. Shakespeare, our Author observes, is fuperior to all other writers in delincating paflion. He imposes not upon his reader, general declamation, and the false coin of unmeaning words, which the bulk of writers deal in. His sentiments are adjusted with the greatest propriety to the peculiar character and circumstances of the speaker; and the propriety is not less perfect betwixt his sentiments and his diction.' Corneille, he remarks, is faulty in passing upon us his own thoughts as a spectator, instead of the genuine sentiments of paffion. Racine, according to him, is less incorrect than Corneille, though many degrees inferior to the English Author. His Lordship particularly takes notice of Shakespeare's superiority with regard to his foliloquies, which are accurate copies of nature. He exhibits two beautiful models from the tragedy of Hamlet and the comedy of the Merry Wives of Windsor: and then selects instances, wherein the French writers, Corneille and Racine, are faulty in this respect. This chapter concludes with examples taken from the best writers, wherein the language is not adapted to the tone of sentiment.

Lastly, his Lordship treats of the beauty of language, which he considers, i. With respect to found. 2. With respect to signification. 3. From the resemblance between found and signification : and the fourth section treats of verfification. Under the first head, he confiders the sounds of the different letters. These sounds as united in Syllables.Syllables united in words.-Words united in a period.-And, in the last place, periods united in a discourse. This section, though to many it will appear abstruse and dry, is replete with curious observations.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Under the second bread, the learned Writer observes, that where. a resemblance betwixt two objects is described, the writer ought to study a resemblance betwixt the two menibers of the period, that express these objects: and, amongst others, he gives the ollowing examples of deviations from this rule.

“ I have obligved of la e, the style of som: great mini,ters very much to exceed that of any other productions."

Letter io the Lord High Treasurer. Swift. This, instead of studying the resemblance of words in a period that exprelles a comparison, is going out of one's road to avoid it. Instead of produciions, which ref:mbles not minifters great or small, the proper word is writers or authors.

'“ If men of eminence are exposed to censure on the one hand, they are as much liable to fariery on the other. If they receive reproaches which are not due to them, they likewise receive praises which they do not deserve."

Szeala or. Here the subject plainly demands uniformity in expresiion instead of variety; and therefore it is submitted whether the period would not do better in the following manner :

“ If men of eminence be exposed to censure on the ope hand, they are as much exposed to flatrery on the other. If they receive reproaches which are not due, they likewise receive praises which are not due."

As to his Lordship’s emendation of the passage cited from Swift, iti unexceptionable: but we are far from thinking that he has improved the paragraph taken from the Spectator. The period, as turned by his Lordship, is quite fat, and the resemblance is too affected to be pleasing. As it ftands in the Spectator, the period is full and round, without offending the ear by a disagreeable re-iteration; and the resemblance is as entire as if it had been extended even to the words. In Ihort, wherever the resemblance between the objects can be preserved without extending it to the words, it is best, in our judgment, to avoid it; because it favours of affectation, which is always difguftful.

We agr e with his Lordship, however, that, in many cases, uniformity is preferable to variety; as in the following instance :

The wise man is happy when he gains his own approbation ; the fool, when he recommends himself to the applause of those about him.

Spiliałor, Numb. 73.

Better

[ocr errors]

Better thus : The wise man is happy when he gains his own approbation; the fool when he gains that of others.

It seems difficult, however, to establish any certain rule in this respect. Perhaps the nature of the subject is the best guide to direct us whether uniformity or variety ought to be consulted. In oratory, for instance, and all weighty compofitions, uniformity seems most suitable, as it renders the periods more close, pointed, and nervous : but in familiar essays, and Nighter compositions, variety may be thought preferable, as it gives a more easy, loose, and unaffected turn to the periods.

In the third section, his Lordship selects instances of the resemblance between the sound and signification of certain words; as the sound of filling trees in a wood.

Loud sounds the ax, redoubling strokes on strokes ;
On all fides round the forest hurls her oaks
Headlong. Deep-echoing groan the thickets brown,

Then rufiling, craikling, crell.ing, thunder down. No person can be at a loss about the cause of this beauty. It is obviously that of imitation. The ingenious Writer very acutely obseryes, that, to complete the resemblance betwixt found and sense, artful pronunciation contributes not a little; and he closes this section with some very shrewd and pertinent obfervations on this branch of the subject.

In the last section concerning versification, his Lordship observes, that the distinction between verse and profe depends not on modulation merely, but arises from the difference of modulation. The difference between verse and profe resembles the difference in music, properly so called, between the song and the recitative. A recitative, in its movements, approaches sometimes to the liveliness of a long, which, on the other hand, degenerates sometimes toward a plain recitative. Nothing is more distinguishable from profe than the bulk of Virgil's hexameters; many of those composed by Horace are very little removed from prose. Sapphic verse has a very sensible modulation ; that, on the other hand, of an Jambic, is extremely faint. Hence his Lordship takes occasion to make some very ingenious remarks on Latin or Greek hexameters, which are the same, and which he considers under the heads of number, arrangement, pause, and accent. What he observes concerning the pause is too curious to be omitted : “At the end of every hexameter line, no car, says he, but

B 4

must

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »