Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chap. 1. CHAPTER I: Ceremonial adjusted, between Author and Reader. — Affectation of Precedency in the former. — Various Claim to Inspiration. — Bards; Prophets: Sibylline Scripture. — Written Oracles; in Verse and Prose.— Common Interest of antie - Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, vol. 3
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Chap. 1. CHAPTER I: Ceremonial adjusted, between Author and Reader. — Affectation of Precedency in the former. — Various Claim to Inspiration. — Bards; Prophets: Sibylline Scripture. — Written Oracles; in Verse and Prose.— Common Interest of antie - Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, vol. 3 
Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, ed. Douglas den Uyl (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001). 3 vols. Vol. 3.
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Chap. 1.CHAPTER I
Ceremonial adjusted, betweenAuthorandReader.—Affectation of Precedency in the former.—Various Claim to Inspiration.—Bards; Prophets: Sibylline Scripture.—Written Oracles; in Verse and Prose.—Common Interest of antient Letters, and Christianity.—State of Wit, Elegance, and Correctness.—Poetick Truth.—Preparation for Criticism on our Author, in his concluding Treatise.
OF all the artificial Relations, form’d between Mankind, the most capricious and variable is that of Author and Reader. Our Author, for his part, has declar’d his Opinion of this, where * he gives his Advice to modern Authors. And tho he supposes that every Author in Form, is, in respect of the particular matter he explains, superior in Understanding to his Reader; yet he allows not that any Author shou’d assume the upper hand, or pretend to withdraw himself from that necessary Subjection to foreign Judgment and Criticism, which must determine the Place of Honour on the Reader’s side.
’Tis evident that an Author’s Art and Labour are for his Reader’s sake alone. ’Tis to his Reader he makes his application, if not openly and avowedly, yet, at least, with implicit Courtship. Poets indeed, and especially those of a modern kind, have a peculiar manner of treating this Affair with a high hand. They pretend to set themselves above Mankind. “Their Pens are sacred: Their Style and Utterance divine.” They write, often, as in a Language foreign to human Kind; and wou’d disdain to be reminded of those poor Elements of Speech, their Alphabet and Grammar.
But here inferior Mortals presume often to intercept their Flight, and remind them of their fallible and human part. Had those first Poets who began this Pretence to Inspiration, been taught a manner of communicating their rapturous Thoughts and high Ideas by some other Medium than that of Style and Language; the Case might have stood otherwise. But the inspiringDivinity or Muse having, in the Explanation of her-self, submitted her Wit and Sense to the mechanick Rules of human arbitrary Composition; she must, in consequence, and by necessity, submit her-self to human Arbitration, and the Judgment of the literate World. And thus the Reader is still superior, and keeps the upper hand.
’Tis indeed no small Absurdity, to assert a Work or Treatise, written in human Language, to be above human Criticism, or Censure. For if the Art of Writing be from the grammatical Rules of human Invention and Determination; if even these Rules are form’d on casual Practice and various Use: there can be no Scripture but what must of necessity be subject to the Reader’s narrow Scrutiny and strict Judgment; unless a Language and Grammar, different from any of human Structure, were deliver’d down from Heaven, and miraculously accommodated to human Service and Capacity.
’Tis no otherwise in the grammatical Art of Characters, and painted Speech, than in the Art of Painting it-self. I have seen, in certain Christian Churches, an antient Piece or two, affirm’d, on the solemn Faith of Priestly Tradition, “to have been Angelically and Divinely wrought, by a supernatural Hand, and sacred Pencil.” Had the Piece happen’d to be of a Hand like Raphael’s, I cou’d have found nothing certain to oppose to this Tradition. But having observ’d the whole Style and Manner of the pretended heavenly Workmanship to be so indifferent as to vary in many Particulars from the Truth of Art, I presum’d within my-self to beg pardon of the Tradition, and assert confidently, “That if the Pencil had been Heaven-guided, it cou’d never have been so lame in its performance”: It being a mere contradiction to all Divine and Moral Truth, that a Celestial Hand, submitting it-self to the Rudiments of a human Art, shou’d sin against theArtit-self, and express Falshood and Error, instead of Justness and Proportion.
It may be alledg’d perhaps, “That there are, however, certain Authors in the World, who tho, of themselves, they neither boldly claim the Privilege of Divine Inspiration, nor carry indeed the least resemblance of Perfection in their Style or Composition; yet they subdue theReader, gain the ascendent over his Thought and Judgment, and force from him a certain implicit Veneration and Esteem.” To this I can only answer, “That if there be neither Spell nor Inchantment in the Case; this can plainly be no other than mere Enthusiasm”; except, perhaps, where the supreme Powers have given their Sanction to any religious Record, or pious Writ: And in this Case, indeed, it becomes immoral and profane in any one, to deny absolutely, or dispute the sacred Authority of the least Line or Syllable contain’d in it. But shou’d the Record, instead of being single, short and uniform, appear to be multifarious, voluminous, and of the most difficult Interpretation; it wou’d be somewhat hard, if not wholly impracticable in the Magistrate, to suffer this Record to be universally current, and at the same time prevent its being variously apprehended and descanted on, by the several differing Genius’s and contrary Judgments of Mankind.
’Tis remarkable, that in the politest of all Nations, the Writings look’d upon as most sacred, were those of their great Poets; whose Works indeed were truly divine, in respect of Art, and the Perfection of their Frame and Composition. But there was yet more *Divinity ascrib’d to them, than what is comprehended in this latter Sense. The Notions of vulgar Religion were built on their miraculous Narrations. The wiser and better sort themselves paid a regard to them in this respect; tho they interpreted them indeed more allegorically. Even the Philosophers who criticiz’d ’em with most Severity, were not their least Admirers; when they * ascrib’d to ’em that divine Inspiration, or sublimeEnthusiasm, of which our Author has largely treated † elsewhere.
It wou’d, indeed, ill become any Pretender to Divine Writing, to publish his Work under a Character of Divinity; if, after all his Endeavours, he came short of a consummate and just Performance. In this respect the CumeanSibyl was not so indiscreet or frantick, as she might appear, perhaps, by writing her Prophetick Warnings and pretended Inspirations upon Joint-Leaves; which, immediately after their elaborate Superscription, were torn in pieces, and scatter’d by the Wind.
‡ You will see an inspired prophetess, who chants destiny at the foot of her rock and entrusts her marks and words to leaves. Whatever lines the maid has written on the leaves, she sorts into order and shuts them within her cave. There they remain unmoved nor shift from their order. Yet when the hinge turns and a breath of wind has stirred them, and the door has disordered the light leaves, never thereafter does she trouble to capture them as they flutter in her cavern or to restore their order or join the leaves. Away men go without advice and hate the Sibyl’s home.
’Twas impossible to disprove the Divinity of such Writings, whilst they cou’d be perus’d only in Fragments. Had the Sister-Priestess of Delphos, who deliver’d her-self in audible plain Metre, been found at any time to have transgress’d the Rule of Verse, it wou’d have been difficult in those days to father the lame Poetry upon Apollo himself. But where the Invention of the Leaves prevented the reading of a single Line intire; whatever Interpretations might have been made of this fragil and volatil Scripture, no Imperfection cou’d be charg’d on the OriginalText it-self.
What those * Volumes may have been, which the disdainful Sibyl or Prophetess committed to the Flames; or what the remainder was, which the Roman Prince receiv’d and consecrated; I will not pretend to judg: Tho it has been admitted for Truth by the antient Christian Fathers, That these Writings were so far sacred and divine, as to have prophesy’d of the Birth of our religious Founder, and bore testimony to that holy Writ which has preserv’d his Memory, and is justly held, in the highest degree, sacred among Christians.
The Policy however of OldRome was such, as not absolutely to rest the Authority of their Religion on any Composition of Literature. The SibyllineVolumes were kept safely lock’d, and inspected only by such as were ordain’d, or deputed for that purpose. And in this Policy the NewRome has follow’d their Example; in scrupling to annex the supreme Authority and sacred Character of Infallibility toScriptureit-self; and in refusing to submit that Scripture to publick Judgment, or to any Eye or Ear but what they qualify for the Inspection of such sacred Mysterys.
The Mahometan Clergy seem to have a different Policy. They boldly rest the Foundation of their Religion on a Book: Such a one as (according to their Pretension) is not only perfect, but inimitable. Were a real Man of Letters, and a just Critick permitted to examine this Scripture by the known Rules of Art; he wou’d soon perhaps refute this Plea. But so barbarous is the accompanying Policy and Temper of these Eastern Religionists, that they discourage, and in effect extinguish all true Learning, Science, and the politer Arts, in company with the antient Authors and Languages, which they set aside; and by this infallible Method, leave their Sacred Writthe sole Standard of literate Performance. For being compar’d to nothing besides it-self, or what is of an inferior kind, it must undoubtedly be thought incomparable.
’Twill be yielded, surely, to the Honour of the Christian World, that theirFaith (especially that of the Protestant Churches) stands on a more generous Foundation. They not only allow Comparison of Authors, but are content to derive their Proofs of the Validity of their sacred Record and Revelation, even from those Authors call’d Profane; as being well appriz’d, according to the Maxim of * our Divine Master, “That in what we bear witness only to our-selves, our Witness cannot be establish’d as a Truth.” So that there being at present no immediate Testimony of Miracle or Sign in behalf of holy Writ; and there being in its own particular Composition or Style nothing miraculous, or self-convincing; if the collateral Testimony of other antient Records, Historians, and foreign Authors, were destroy’d, or wholly lost; there wou’d be less Argument or Plea remaining against that natural Suspicion of those who are call’d Sceptical, “That the holy Records them-selves were no other than the pure Invention or artificial Compilement of an interested Party, in behalf of the richest Corporation and most profitable Monopoly which cou’d be erected in the World.”
Thus, in reality, the Interest of our pious Clergy is necessarily join’d with that of antient Letters, and polite Learning. By this they perpetually refute the crafty Arguments of those Objectors. When they abandon this; they resign their Cause. When they strike at it; they strike even at the Root and Foundation of our holy Faith, and weaken that Pillar on which the whole Fabrick of our Religion depends.
It belongs to mere Enthusiasts and Fanaticks to plead the Sufficiency of a reiterate translated Text, deriv’d to ’em thro’ so many Channels, and subjected to so many Variations, of which they are wholly ignorant. Yet wou’d they persuade us, it seems, that from hence alone they can recognize the Divine Spirit, and receive it in themselves, un-subject (as they imagine) to any Rule, and superior to what they themselves often call the dead Letter, and unprofitable Science.—This, any one may see, is building Castles in the Air, and demolishing them again at pleasure; as the exercise of an aerial Fancy, or heated Imagination.
But the judicious Divines of the establish’d Christian Churches, have sufficiently condemn’d this Manner. They are far from resting their Religion on the common Aspect, or obvious Form of their vulgarBible, as it presents it-self in the printed Copy, or modern Version. Neither do they in the Original it-self represent it to us as a very Master-piece of Writing, or as absolutely perfect in the Purity and Justness either of Style, or Composition. They allow the Holy Authors to have written according to their best Facultys, and the Strength of their natural Genius: “A Shepherd like a Shepherd; and a Prince like a Prince: A Man of reading, and advanc’d in Letters, like a Proficient in the kind; and a Man of meaner Capacity and Reading, like one of the ordinary sort, in his own common Idiom, and imperfect manner of Narration.”
’Tis the Substance only of the Narrative, and the principal Facts confirming the Authority of the Revelation, which our Divines think themselves concern’d to prove, according to the best Evidence of which the Matter it-self is capable. And whilst the Sacred Authors themselves allude not only to the Annals and Historys of the HeathenWorld, but even to the philosophical Works, the regular *Poems, the very Plays and †Comedys of the learned and polite Antients; it must be own’d, that as those antient Writings are impair’d, or lost, not only the Light and Clearness of holy Writ, but even the Evidence it-self of its main Facts, must in proportion be diminish’d and brought in question. So ill advis’d were * those devout Churchmen heretofore, who in the height of Zeal did their utmost to destroy all Footsteps of Heathen Literature, and consequently all further use of Learning or Antiquity.
But happily the Zeal of this kind is now left as proper only to those despis’d and ignorant modern Enthusiasts we have describ’d. The RomanChurch it-self is so recover’d from this primitive Fanaticism, that their Great Men, and even their *Pontiffs, are found ready to give their helping Hand, and confer their Bounty liberally towards the advancement of all antient and polite Learning. They justly observe, that their very Traditions stand in need of some collateral Proof. The Conservation of these other antient and disinterested Authors, they wisely judg essential to the Credibility of those principal Facts, on which the whole religious History and Tradition depend.
’Twou’d indeed be in vain for us, to bring a Pontius Pilate into our Creed, and recite what happen’d under him, in Judea, if we knew not, “Under whom he himself govern’d, whose Authority he had, or what Character he bore, in that remote Country, and amidst a foreign People.” In the same manner, ’twou’d be in vain for a RomanPontiff to derive his Title to spiritual Sovereignty from the Seat, Influence, Power, and Donation of the RomanCaesars, and their Successors; if it appear’d not by any History, or collateral Testimony, “Who the first Caesars were; and how they came possess’d of that universal Power, and long Residence of Dominion.”
MY READER doubtless, by this time, must begin to wonder thro’ what Labyrinth of Speculation, and odd Texture of capricious Reflections, I am offering to conduct him. But he will not, I presume, be altogether displeas’d with me, when I give him to understand, that being now come into my last Miscellany, and being sensible of the little Courtship I have paid him, comparatively with what is practis’d in that kind by other modern Authors; I am willing, by way of Compensation, to express my Loyalty or Homage towards him, and shew, by my natural Sentiments, and Principles, “What particular Deference and high Respect I think to be his Due.”
The Issue therefore of this long Deduction is, in the first place, with due Compliments, in my Capacity of Author, and in the name of all modest Work-men willingly joining with me in this Representation, to congratulate our EnglishReader on the Establishment of what is so advantageous to himself; I mean, that mutual Relation between him and our-selves, which naturally turns so much to his Advantage, and makes us to be in reality the subservient Party. And in this respect ’tis to be hop’d he will long enjoy his just Superiority and Privilege over his humble Servants, who compose and labour for his sake. The Relation in all likelihood must still continue, and be improv’d. Our common Religion and Christianity, founded on Letters and Scripture, promises thus much. Nor is this Hope likely to fail us, whilst Readers are really allow’d the Liberty to read; that is to say, to examine, construe, and remark with Understanding.Learning and Science must of necessity flourish, whilst the Language of the wisest and most learned of Nations is acknowledg’d to contain the principal and essential part of our holy Revelation. And Criticism,Examinations, Judgments, literate Labours and Inquirys must still be in Repute and Practice; whilst Antient Authors, so necessary to the Support of the Sacred Volumes, are in request, and afford Imployment of such infinite Extent to us Moderns of whatever degree, who are desirous to signalize our-selves by any Atchievement in Letters, and be consider’d as the Investigators of Knowledg and Politeness.
I may undoubtedly, by virtue of my preceding Argument in behalf of Criticism, be allow’d, without suspicion of Flattery or mere Courtship, to assert the Reader’s Privilege above the Author; and assign to him, as I have done, the upper Hand, and Place of Honour. As to Fact, we know for certain, that the greatest of Philosophers, the very Founder of Philosophy it-self, was no Author. Nor did the Divine Author, and Founder of our Religion, condescend to be an Author in this other respect. He who cou’d best have given us the History of his own Life, with the intire Sermons and divine Discourses which he made in publick, was pleas’d to leave itto others,* “To take in hand”: As there were many, it seems, long afterwards, who did; and undertook accordingly “to write in order, and as seem’d good to them, for the better Information of particular Persons, what was then believ’d among the Initiated or Catechiz’d, from Tradition, and early Instruction in their Youth; or what had been transmitted, by Report, from such as were the presum’d Auditors, and Eye-witnesses of those things in former time.”
Whether those sacred Books ascrib’d to the Divine Legislator of the Jews, and which treat of his * Death, Burial, and Succession, as well as of his Life and Actions, are strictly to be understood as coming from the immediate Pen of that holy Founder, or rather from some other inspir’d Hand, guided by the same influencing Spirit; I will not presume so much as to examine or enquire. But in general we find, That both as to publick Concerns, in Religion, and in Philosophy, the great and eminent Actors were of a Rank superior to the Writing-Worthys. The great Athenian Legislator, tho noted as a poetical Genius, cannot be esteem’d an Author, for the sake of some few Verses he may occasionally have made. Nor was the great SpartanFounder, a Poet himself, tho Author or Redeemer (if I may so express it) to the greatest and best of Poets; who ow’d in a manner his Form and Being to the accurate Searches and Collections of that greatPatron. The Politicians and civilSages, who were fitted in all respects for the great Scene of Business, cou’d not, it seems, be well taken out of it, to attend the slender and minute Affairs of Letters, and Scholastick Science.
’Tis true, indeed, that without a Capacity for Action, and a Knowledg of the World and Mankind, there can be no Author naturally qualify’d to write with Dignity, or execute any noble or great Design. But there are many, who with the highest Capacity for Business, are by their Fortune deny’d the Privilege of that higher Sphere. As there are others, who having once mov’d in it, have been afterwards, by many Impediments and Obstructions, necessitated to retire, and exert their Genius in this lower degree.
’Tis to some Catastrophe of this kind that we owe the noblest Historians (even the two Princes and Fathers of History) as well as the greatest Philosophical Writers, the Founder of the Academy, and others, who were also noble in respect of their Birth, and fitted for the highest Stations in the Publick; but discourag’d from engaging in it, on account of some Misfortunes, experienc’d either in their own Persons, or that of their near Friends.
’Tis to the early Banishment and long Retirement of a heroick Youth out of his native Country, that we owe an original System of Works, the politest, wisest, usefullest, and (to those who can understand the Divineness of a just Simplicity) the most *amiable, and even the most elevating and exalting of all un-inspir’d and merely human Authors.
To this Fortune we owe some of the greatest of the antient Poets. ’Twas this Chance which produc’d the Muse of an exalted Grecian†Lyrick, and of his Follower ‡Horace; whose Character, tho easy to be gather’d from History, and his own Works, is little observ’d by any of his Commentators: The general Idea, conceiv’d of him, being drawn chiefly from his precarious and low Circumstances at Court, after the forfeiture of his Estate, under the Usurpation and Conquest of an Octavius, and the Ministry of a Maecenas; not from his better Condition, and nobler Employments in earlier days, under the Favour and Friendship of greater and better Men, whilst the Roman State and Liberty subsisted. For of this Change he himself, as great a Courtier as he seem’d afterwards, gives sufficient ** Intimation.
Let Authors therefore know them-selves; and tho conscious of Worth, Virtue, and a Genius, such as may justly place them above Flattery or mean Courtship to their Reader; yet let them reflect, that as Authors merely, they are but of the second Rank of Men. And let theReader withal consider, “That when he unworthily resigns the place of Honour, and surrenders his Taste, or Judgment, to an Author of ever so great a Name, or venerable Antiquity, and not to Reason, and Truth, at whatever hazard; he not only betrays himself, but withal the common Cause of Author and Reader, the Interest of Letters and Knowledg, and the chief Liberty, Privilege, and Prerogative of the rational part of Mankind.”
’Tis related in History of the Cappadocians, That being offer’d their Liberty by the Romans, and permitted to govern themselves by their own Laws and Constitutions, they were much terrify’d at the Proposal; and as if some sore harm had been intended ’em, humbly made it their Request, “That they might be govern’d by arbitrary Power, and that an absolute Governour might without delay be appointed over ’em at the discretion of the Romans.” For such was their Disposition towards mere Slavery and Subjection; that they dar’d not pretend so much as to chuse their own Master. So essential they thought Slavery, and so divine a thing the Right ofMastership, that they dar’d not be so free even as to presume to give themselves that Blessing, which they chose to leave rather to Providence, Fortune, or a Conqueror, to bestow upon them. They dar’d not make a King; but wou’d rather take one from their powerful Neighbours. Had they been necessitated to come to an Election, the Horror of such a Use of Liberty in Government, wou’d perhaps have determin’d ’em to chuse blindfold, or leave it to the Decision of the commonest Lot, Cast of Dye, Cross or Pile, or whatever it were which might best enable them to clear themselves of the heinous Charge of using the least Foresight, Choice, or Prudence in such an Affair.
I shou’d think it a great Misfortune, were my Reader of the number of those, who in a kind of Cappadocian Spirit, cou’d easily be terrify’d with the Proposal of giving him his Liberty, and making him his own Judg. My Endeavour, I must confess, has been to shew him his just Prerogative in this respect, and to give him the sharpest Eye over his Author, invite him to criticize honestly, without favour or affection, and with the utmost Bent of his Parts and Judgment. On this account it may be objected to me, perhaps, “That I am not a little vain and presumptuous, in my own as well as in my Author’s behalf, who can thus, as it were, challenge my Reader to a Trial of his keenest Wit.”
But to this I answer, That shou’d I have the good fortune to raise the masterly Spirit of justCriticism in my Readers, and exalt them ever so little above the lazy, timorous, over-modest, or resign’d State, in which the generality of them remain; tho by this very Spirit, I my-self might possibly meet my Doom: I shou’d however abundantly congratulate with my-self on these my low Flights, be proud of having plum’d the Arrows of better Wits, and furnish’d Artillery, or Ammunition of any kind, to those Powers, to which I my-self had fall’n a Victim.
* I will play the part of a whetstone.
I cou’d reconcile my Ambition in this respect to what I call my Loyalty to theReader; and say of his Elevation in Criticism and Judgment, what a Roman Princess said of her Son’s Advancement to Empire, * “Let him kill me, so long as he comes to the throne.”
Had I been a SpanishCervantes, and with success equal to that comick Author, had destroy’d the reigning Taste of Gothick or MoorishChivalry, I cou’d afterwards contentedly have seen my Burlesque-Work it-self despis’d, and set aside; when it had wrought its intended effect, and destroy’d those Giants and Monsters of the Brain, against which it was originally design’d. Without regard, therefore, to the prevailing Relish or Taste which, in my own Person, I may unhappily experience, when these my Miscellaneous Works are leisurely examin’d; I shall proceed still in my Endeavour to refine my Reader’sPalate;whetting and sharpening it, the best I can, for Use, and Practice, in the lower Subjects: that by this Exercise it may acquire the greater Keenness, and be of so much the better effect in Subjects of a higher kind, which relate to his chief Happiness, his Liberty and Manhood.
SUPPOSING me therefore a mere comick Humourist, in respect of those inferior Subjects, which after the manner of my familiar Prose-Satir I presume to criticize; May not I be allow’d to ask, “Whether there remains not still among us noble Britons, something of that original Barbarous and Gothick Relish, not wholly purg’d away; when, even at this hour, Romances and Gallantrys of like sort, together with Works as monstrous of other kinds, are current, and in vogue, even with the People who constitute our reputed polite World?” Need I on this account refer again to our † Author, where he treats in general of the Style and Manner of our modern Authors, from the Divine to the Comedian? What Person is there of the least Judgment or Understanding, who cannot easily, and without the help of a Divine, or rigid Moralist, observe the lame Condition of our EnglishStage; which nevertheless is found the Rendevouz and chief Entertainment of our best Company, and from whence in all probability our Youth will continue to draw their Notion of Manners, and their Taste of Life, more directly and naturally, than from the Rehearsals and Declamations of a graverTheater?
Let those whose business it is, advance, as they best can, the Benefit of that sacred Oratory, which we have lately seen and are still like to see employ’d to various purposes, and further designs than that of instructing us in Religion or Manners. Let ’em in that high Scene endeavour to refine our Taste and Judgment in sacred Matters. ’Tis the good Critick’s Task to amend our commonStage; nor ought this Dramatick Performance to be decry’d or sentenc’d by those Criticks of a higher Sphere. The Practice and Art is honest, in it-self. Our Foundations are well laid. And in the main, our EnglishStage (as * has been remark’d) is capable of the highest Improvement; as well from the present Genius of our Nation, as from the rich Oar of our early Poets in this kind. But Faults are easier imitated than Beautys.
We find, indeed, our Theater become of late the Subject of a growing Criticism. We hear it openly complain’d, “That in our newer Plays as well as in our older, in Comedy as well as Tragedy, the Stage presents a proper Scene of Uproar;—Duels fought; Swords drawn, many of a side; Wounds given, and sometimes dress’d too; the Surgeon call’d, and the Patient prob’d and tented upon the Spot. That in our Tragedy, nothing is so common as Wheels, Racks, and Gibbets properly adorn’d; Executions decently perform’d; Headless Bodys and Bodiless Heads, expos’d to view: Battels fought: Murders committed: and the Dead carry’d off in great Numbers.”—Such is our Politeness!
Nor are these Plays, on this account, the less frequented by either of the Sexes: Which inclines me to favour the Conceit our † Author has suggested concerning the mutual Correspondence and Relation between our RoyalTheater, and PopularCircus or Bear-Garden. For in the former of these Assemblys, ’tis undeniable that at least the two upper Regions or Gallerys contain such Spectators, as indifferently frequent each Place of Sport. So that ’tis no wonder we hear such Applause resounded on the Victorys of an Almanzor; when the same Partys had possibly, no later than the Day before, bestow’d their Applause as freely on the victorious Butcher, the Hero of another Stage: where amidst various Frays, bestial and human Blood, promiscuous Wounds and Slaughter; one Sex are observ’d as frequent and as pleas’d Spectators as the other, and sometimes not Spectators only, but Actors in the Gladiatorian Parts.—These Congregations, which we may be apt to call Heathenish,* (tho in reality never known among the politer Heathens) are, in our Christian Nation, unconcernedly allow’d and tolerated, as no way injurious to religious Interests; whatever effect they may be found to have on national Manners, Humanity, and Civil Life. Of such Indulgencys as these, we hear no Complaints. Nor are any Assemblys, tho of the most barbarous and enormous kind, so offensive, it seems, to Men of Zeal, as religious Assemblys of a different Fashion or Habit from their own.
I am sorry to say, that, tho in the many parts of Poetry our Attempts have been high and noble, yet in general theTaste of Wit and Letters lies much upon a level with what relates to our Stage.
I can readily allow to our BritishGenius what was allow’d to the Roman heretofore:
† By nature full of elevation and passion; for he has tragic inspiration enough and happy boldness.
But then I must add too, that the excessive Indulgence and Favour shown to our Authors on account of what their mere Genius and flowing Vein afford, has render’d them intolerably supine, conceited, and Admirers of themselves. The Publick having once suffer’d ’em to take the ascendent, they become, like flatter’d Princes, impatient of Contradiction or Advice. They think it a disgrace to be criticiz’d, even by a Friend; or to reform, at his desire, what they them-selves are fully convinc’d is negligent, and uncorrect.
The †Limae Labor is the great Grievance, with our Country-men. An EnglishAuthor wou’d be allGenius. He wou’d reap the Fruits of Art; but without Study, Pains, or Application. He thinks it necessary, indeed, (lest his Learning shou’d be call’d in question) to show the World that he errs knowingly against the Rules of Art. And for this reason, whatever Piece he publishes at any time, he seldom fails, in some prefix’d Apology, to speak in such a manner of Criticism and Art, as may confound the ordinary Reader, and prevent him from taking up a Part, which, shou’d he once assume, wou’d prove fatal to the impotent and mean Performance.
’Twere to be wish’d, that when once our Authors had consider’d of a Model or Plan, and attain’d the Knowledg of a ‡Whole and Parts; when from this beginning they had proceeded to Morals, and the Knowledg of what is call’d *Poetick Manners, and Truth; when they had learnt to reject false Thought, embarassing and mix’d Metaphors, the ridiculous Paint in Comedy, and the false Sublime, and Bombast in Heroick; they wou’d at last have some regard to Numbers, Harmony, and an*Ear; and correct, as far as possible, the harsh Sounds of our Language, in Poetry at least, if not in Prose.
But so much are our British Poets taken up, in seeking out that monstrous Ornament which we call †Rhyme, that ’tis no wonder if other Ornaments, and real Graces are unthought of, and left un-attempted. However, since in some Parts of Poetry, especially in the Dramatick, we have been so happy as to triumph over this barbarous Taste; ’tis unaccountable that our Poets, who from this Privilege ought to undertake some further Refinements, shou’d remain still upon the same level as before. ’Tis a shame to our Authors, that in their elegant Style and metred Prose there shou’d not be found a peculiar Grace and Harmony, resulting from a more natural and easy Disengagement of their Periods, and from a careful avoiding the Encounter of the shocking Consonants and jarring Sounds to which our Language is so unfortunately subject.
They have of late, ’tis true, reform’d in some measure the gouty Joints and Darning-work of Whereunto’s, Whereby’s, Thereof’s, Therewith’s, and the rest of this kind; by which, complicated Periods are so curiously strung, or hook’d on, one to another, after the long-spun manner of the Bar, or Pulpit. But to take into consideration no real Accent, or Cadency of Words, no Sound or Measure of Syllables; to put together, at one time, a Set of Compounds, of the longest Greek or Latin Termination; and at another, to let whole Verses, and those too of our heroick and longest sort, pass currently in Monosyllables; is, methinks, no slender Negligence. If single Verses at the head, or in the most emphatical places, of the most considerable Works, can admit of such a Structure, and pass for truly harmonious and poetical in this negligent form; I see no reason why more Verses than one or two, of the same formation, shou’d not be as well admitted; or why an un-interrupted Succession of these well-strung Monosyllables might not be allow’d to clatter after one another, like the Hammers of a Paper-Mill, without any breach of Musick, or prejudice to the Harmony of our Language. But if Persons who have gone no farther than a Smith’s Anvil to gain an Ear, are yet likely, on fair trial, to find a plain defect in these Ten-Monosyllable Heroicks; it wou’d follow, methinks, that even a Prose-Author, who attempts to write politely, shou’d endeavour to confine himself within those Bounds, which can never, without breach of Harmony, be exceeded in any just Metre, or agreeable Pronunciation.
THUS HAVE I ventur’d to arraign the Authority of those self-privileg’d Writers, who wou’d exempt themselves from Criticism, and save their ill-acquir’d Reputation, by the Decrial of an Art, on which the Cause and Interest of Wit and Letters absolutely depend. Be it they themselves, or their great Patrons in their behalf, who wou’d thus arbitrarily support the Credit of ill Writings; the Attempt, I hope, will prove unsuccessful. Be they Moderns or Antients, Foreigners or Natives, ponderous and austere Writers, or airy and of the humorous kind: Whoever takes refuge here, or seeks Protection hence; whoever joins his Party or Interest to this Cause; it appears from the very Fact and Endeavour alone, that there is just ground to suspect some Insufficiency or Imposture at the bottom. And on this account the Reader, if he be wise, will the rather redouble his Application and Industry, to examine the Merit of his assuming Author. If, as Reader, and Judg, he dares once assert that Liberty to which we have shewn him justly intitled; he will not easily be threaten’d or ridicul’d out of the use of his examining Capacity, and native Privilege of Criticism.
’Twas to this Art, so well understood and practis’d heretofore, that the wise Antients ow’d whatever was consummate and perfect in their Productions. ’Tis to the same Art we owe the Recovery of Letters in these latter Ages. To this alone we must ascribe the Recognition of antient Manuscripts, the Discovery of what is spurious, and the Discernment of whatever is genuine of those venerable Remains which have pass’d thro’ such dark Periods of Ignorance, and rais’d us to the Improvements we now make in every Science. ’Tis to this Art, that even the Sacred Authors themselves owe their highest Purity and Correctness. So sacred ought the Art it-self to be esteem’d; when from its Supplies alone is form’d that judicious and learned Strength, by which the Defenders of our Holy Religion are able so successfully to refute the Heathens, Jews, Sectarians, Hereticks, and other Enemys or Opposers of our primitive and antient Faith.
But having thus, after our Author’s example, asserted the Use of Criticism, in all literate Works, from the main Frame, or Plan of every Writing, down to the minutest Particle; we may now proceed to exercise this Art upon our Author himself, and by his own Rules examine him in this his last Treatise; reserving still to our-selves the same Privilege of Variation, and Excursion into other Subjects, the same Episodick Liberty, and Right of wandering, which we have maintain’d in the preceding Chapters.
[* ]Viz. Treatise III. VOL. I.
[* ] Supra, pag. 153, 154. in the Notes.
[* ] VOL. I. pag. 53, 54.
[† ]Viz. Letter of Enthusiasm, VOL. I. And above, MISC. II. chap. 1, 2.
[* ]Libri tres in Sacrarium conditi, Sibyllini appellati. Ad eos quasi ad Oraculum Quindecimviri adeunt, cum Dii immortales publicè consulendi sunt. Aul. Gell. lib. i. c. 19. & Plin. lib. xiii. c. 13. [The three books were placed in a shrine and called the Sibyl’s books. The College of Fifteen consults them, like an oracle, whenever the Gods have to be consulted by the state.] But of this first Sibylline Scripture, and of other canoniz’d Books and additional Sacred Writ among the Romans; see what Dionysius Halicarnasseus cites (from Varro’s Roman Theologicks) in his History, lib. iv. c. 62.
[* ] John, chap. v. ver. 31.
[* ]Aratus, Acts ch. xvii. ver. 28. And Epimenides, Titus ch. i. ver. 12. Even one of their own PROPHETS. For so the holy Apostle deign’d to speak of a Heathen Poet, a Physiologist, and Divine: who prophesy’d of Events, wrought Miracles, and was receiv’d as an inspir’d Writer, and Author of Revelations, in the chief Citys and States of Greece.
[† ]Menander, 1 Cor. ch. xv. ver. 33.
[* ] Even in the sixth Century, the fam’d Gregorius Bishop of Rome, who is so highly celebrated for having planted the Christian Religion, by his Missionary Monks, in our English Nation of Heathen Saxons, was so far from being a Cultivater or Supporter of Arts or Letters, that he carry’d on a kind of general Massacre upon every Product of human Wit. His own Words in a Letter to one of the French Bishops, a Man of the highest Consideration and Merit, (as a noted modern Critick, and satirical Genius of that Nation acknowledges) are as follow. Pervenit ad nos quod sine verecundiâ memorare non possumus, fraternitatem tuam GRAMMATICAM quibusdam exponere. Quam rem ita molestè suscepimus, ac sumus vehementiùs aspernati, ut ea quae prius dicta fuerunt, in gemitum & tristitiam verteremus, quia in uno se ore cumJovislaudibusChristilaudes non capiunt. * * * * * Unde si post hoc evidenter ea quae ad nos perlata sunt, falsa esse claruerint, nec vos NUGIS & SECULARIBUS LITERIS studere contigerit, Deo nostro gratias agimus, qui cor vestrum maculari blasphemis nefandorum laudibus non permisit. [A story has reached me which I am ashamed to mention, that your brotherhood teaches certain pupils grammar! This news I received with such grief and rejected with such scorn that I turned what was said before into groans and lamentations; for one mouth cannot hold the praise of Jupiter and of Christ too. . . . So if hereafter the news proves false, and you have not spent your time upon trifles and worldly literature, I return thanks to God, who would not have your hearts stained with the blasphemous praise of the wicked.] Gregorii Opera, Epist. 48. lib. ix. Paris. Ann. 1533. And in his Dedication, or first Preface to his Morals, after some very insipid Rhetorick, and figurative Dialect imploy’d against the Study and Art of Speech, he has another Fling at the Classick Authors and Discipline; betraying his inveterate Hatred to antient Learning, as well as the natural Effect of this Zealot-Passion, in his own Barbarity both of Style and Manners. His words are, Unde & ipsam artem loquendi, quam Magisteria Disciplinae exterioris insinuant, servare despexi. Nam sicut hujus quoque Epistolae tenor enunciat, non Metacismi collisionem fugio: non Barbarismi confusionem devito, situs motusque praepositionum casusque servare contemno: quia indignum vehementer existimo, ut verba coelestis oraculi restringam sub regulisDonati. [So I think scorn of observing even the art of speech, which the wider education is bringing in upon us. For, as the course of this letter shows, I do not avoid the frequent use of M; I do not shun barbarisms; I despise rules about the position or the changing or the cases of prepositions: for I strongly hold it to be unfitting to bind the words of heaven by the rules of Donatus.] That he carry’d this savage Zeal of his so far as to destroy (what in him lay) the whole Body of Learning, with all the Classick Authors then in being, was generally believ’d. And (what was yet more notorious and unnatural in a RomanPontiff) the Destruction of the Statues, Sculptures, and finest Pieces of Antiquity in Rome, was charg’d on him by his Successor in the SEE; as, besides Platina, another Writer of his Life, without the least Apology, confesses. See in the above-cited Edition of St. Gregory’s Works, at the beginning, viz. Vita D. Gregorii ex Joan. Laxiardo Coelestino. ’Tis no wonder, therefore, if other Writers have given account of that Sally of the Prelate’s Zeal against the Books and Learning of the Antients, for which the Reason alledg’d was very extraordinary; “That the holy Scriptures wou’d be the better relish’d, and receive a considerable Advantage by the Destruction of these Rivals.” It seems they had no very high Idea of the holy Scriptures, when they suppos’d them such Losers by a Comparison. However, ’twas thought advisable by other Fathers (who had a like view) to frame new Pieces of Literature, after the Model of these condemn’d Antients. Hence those ridiculous Attempts of new heroick Poems, new Epicks and Dramaticks, new Homers, Euripides’s, Menanders, which were with so much Pains and so little Effect industriously set afoot by the zealous Priesthood; when Ignorance prevail’d, and the Hierarchal Dominion was so universal. But tho their Power had well nigh compass’d the Destruction of those great Originals, they were far from being able to procure any Reception for their puny Imitations. The Mock-Works have lain in their deserv’d Obscurity; as will all other Attempts of that kind, concerning which our Author has already given his Opinion, VOL. I. pag. 356, 357, &c. But as to the ill Policy as well as Barbarity of this Zealot-Enmity against the Works of the Antients, a foreign Protestant Divine, and most learned Defender of Religion, making the best Excuse he can for the Greek-Fathers, and endeavouring to clear them from this general Charge of Havock and Massacre committed upon Science and Erudition, has these words: “Si cela est, voilà encore un nouveau Sujet de mépriser les Patriarches deConstantinoplequi n’étoient d’ailleurs rien moins que gens de bien; mais j’ai de la poine à le croire, parce qu’il nous est resté de Poetes infiniment plus sales que ceux qui se sont perdus. Personne ne doute qu’Aristophanene soit beaucoup plus sale, que n’etoitMenander. Plutarqueen est un bon témoin, dans la Comparaison qu’il a faite de ces deux Poetes. Il peuvoit être neanmoins arrivé, que quelquesEcclesiastiquesennemis des Belles Lettres, en eussent usé comme ditChalcondyle,sans penser qu’en conservant toute l’Antiquité Grecque, ils conserveroient la Langue de leurs Prédecesseurs, & une infinité de Faits qui servoient beaucoup à l’intelligence & à la confirmation de l’Histoire Sacrée, & même de la Religion Chretienne. Ces gens-là devoient au moins nous conserver les Histoires Anciennes des Orientaux, comme des Chaldéens, des Tyriens, & des Egyptiens; mais ils agissoient plus par ignorance & par negligence, que par raison.” [If that is (true), behold yet again a new reason to disdain the Patriarchs of Constantinople, who moreover were nothing less than good men; but I have difficulty believing it, because there has survived to us Poets infinitely more bawdy than those who were lost. No one doubts that Aristophanes was not much more dirty than Menander. Plutarch testifies well to this in the comparison he made of the two Poets. It could have happened nonetheless that certain Clerics, foes to Belles-Lettres, could have used them as Chalcondyle says, without thinking that by conserving all of Greek Antiquity they would conserve the language of their Predecessors, and an infinity of facts that would aid greatly in the understanding and confirmation of Sacred History and even of the Christian Religion. Those men at least ought to conserve for us the Ancient Histories of the Orientals, such as the Chaldeans, the Tyrians, and the Egyptians, but they acted more from ignorance and negligence than by reason.] BIBL. CHOIS. Tom. XIV. pag. 131, 132, 133.
[* ] Such a one is the present Prince, Clement XI. an Incourager of all Arts and Sciences.
[* ] So Luke, chap. i. ver. 1, 2, 3, 4. “(1) For as much as MANY have taken in hand to set forth, in order, a Declaration (Exposition or Narrative, διήγησιν) of those things which are most surely believ’d among (or were fulfill’d in, or among) us; (2) Even as they deliver’d them unto us, which from the beginning were Eyewitnesses and Ministers of the Word: (3) It seem’d good to ME also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, (or having look’d back, and search’d accurately into all Matters from the beginning, or highest time, παρηκοκονθηκότι ἄνωθεν πα̑σιν ἀκριβω̑ς) to write unto Thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, (4) That Thou mightest know the Certainty (or Validity, sound Discussion, ἀσφάλειαν) of those things wherein THOU hast been instructed (or catechiz’d) περὶ ὠ̑ν κατηχήθης.” Whether the words πεπληρφορημένων ἐν ἡμι̑ν, in the first Verse, shou’d be render’d believ’d among, or fulfill’d in, or among us, may depend on the different reading of the Original. For in some Copys, the ἐν next following is left out. However, the exact Interpreters or verbal Translators render it fulfill’d, Vid. Ar. Montan. Edit. Plantin. 1584. In Ver. 4. the word CERTAINTY, ἀσφάλειαν, is interpreted ἀκρίβειαν, Validity, Soundness, good Foundation, from the Sense of the preceding Verse. See the late Edition of our learned Dr. Mill,ex recensioneKusteri, Rot. 1710. For the word Catechiz’d, κατηχήθης, (the last of the fourth Verse) Rob. Constantine has this Explanation of it: “Priscis Theologis apudAEgyptiosmos crat, ut Mysteria voce tantùm, veluti per manus, posteris relinquerent. Apud Christianos, qui Baptismatis erant candidati, iis, vivâ voce, tradebantur fidei Christianae Mysieria, sine scriptis: quod Paulus & Lucas κατηχει̑ν vocant. Unde qui docebantur, Catechumeni vocabantur; qui docebant, Catechistae.” [Among the Egyptians it was the custom of ancient worship that mysteries were left to future generations with the voice alone, just as if written by hands. Among the Christians who were candidates for baptism, to these with the living voice, the mysteries were being handed down to the Christian believers without written instructions, a practice which Paul and Luke called to instruct. Thus those who were being taught were called the catechumen; those who were teaching, the catechists.]
[* ] Deut. ch. xxxiv. ver. 5, 6, 7, &c.
[* ] τὸν ἥδιστον καὶ χαριέστατον Ξενοφω̑ντα, [loosely translated by Shaftesbury in the text] as Athenaeus calls him, lib. xi. See VOL. I. pag. 255.
[† ] [And thou, Alcaeus, who tellest in a fuller tone on a lyre of gold the hardships of the sea, of exile, and of war.]
[‡ ] [Come, my lyre, utter for me a Latin song, though thou wert first tuned by a citizen of Lesbos, etc.]
[** ] [But the cruel times tore me away from that pleasant spot, and civil strife hurried me, with all my ignorance of war, to take up those arms which were to be no match for the might of Augustus Caesar. As soon as Philippi set me free from arms, humbled, my wings clipped, my father’s house and estate lost, the fearlessness of a poor man drove me to write verses.]
[A legion of Roman soldiers obeyed me as its officer.]
Viz. under Brutus. Whence again that natural Boast:
[I pleased the first men of the city in war and peace.]
[Envy shall confess against her will that I have ever lived with the great.]
Where the vixisse shews plainly whom he principally meant by his MAGNI, his early Patrons and Great Men in the State: His Apology and Defense here (as well as in his fourth and sixth Satirs of his first Book, and his 2d Epistle of his second, and elsewhere) being supported still by the open and bold Assertion of his good Education, (equal to the highest Senators, and under the best Masters) his Employments at home and abroad, and his early Commerce and Familiarity with former Great Men, before these his new Friendships, and this latter Court-Acquaintance, which was now envy’d him by his Adversarys.
[Now they envy me because I live familiarly with thee, Maecenas, but formerly because a legion of Roman soldiers obeyed me as officer.]
The Reproach now was with respect to a Maecenas or Augustus. ’Twas the same formerly with respect to a Brutus, and those who were then the principal and leading Men. The Complaint or Murmur against him on account of his being an Upstart or Favourite under a Maecenas and Augustus, cou’d not be answer’d, by a Vixisse relating to the same Persons; any more than his Placuisse, join’d with his BELLI Domique, cou’d relate to those under whom he never went to War, nor wou’d ever consent to bear any Honours. For so he himself distinguishes (Sat. vi. to Maecenas)
[The two reasons are unlike because, though perhaps a man might fairly grudge me my commission, yet he cannot fairly grudge me your friendship too.]
He was formerly an Actor, and in the Ministry of Affairs: Now only a FRIEND to a Minister: Himself still a private and retir’d Man. That he refus’d Augustus’s Offer of the Secretary-ship, is well known. But in these Circumstances, the Politeness as well as Artifice of Horace is admirable; in making Futurity or Posterity to be the speaking Party in both those places, where he suggests his Intimacy and Favour with the Great, that there might, in some measure, be room left (tho in strictness there was scarce any) for an Octavius and a Maecenas to be included. See VOL. I. pag. 269, 270. in the Notes.
[* ] ——Fungar vice Cotis.—— Horat. de Arte Poet. ver. 304.
[* ] “Occidat, dum imperet.” Tacit. Annal. lib. xiv. cap. 9.
[† ]Viz. In his Advice to Authors, Treatise III. VOL. I.
[* ] VOL. I. pag. 217, &c. 223, 259, 275, 276.
[† ] VOL. I. pag. 270, &c.
[* ] VOL. I. pag. 269, &c.
[† ] Ars Poet.
[‡ ] ὅλον δ’ ἐστι τὸ ἔχον ἀρχὴν καὶ μέσον καὶ τελευτήν. ἀρχὴ δέ ἐστιν ὃ αὐτὸ μὲν μὴ ἐξ ἀνάγκης μετ’ ἄλλο ἐστί, μετ’ ἐκει̑νο δ’ ἕτερον πέφυκεν εἰ̑ναι ἢ γίνεσθαι. τίλευτὴ δὲ τοὐναντίον ὃ αὐτὸ μετ’ ἄλλο πέφυκεν εἰ̑ναι ἢ ἑξ ἀνάγκης ἢ ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πολύ, μετὰ δὲ του̑το ἄλλο οὐδέν. μέσον δὲ ὃ καὶ αὐτὸ μετ’ ἄλλο καὶ μετ’ ἐκει̑νο ἕτερον. Arist. de Poet. cap. 7. [A whole is that which has beginning, middle, and end. A beginning is that which does not itself follow on anything by necessity, but after which something else naturally is or arises. On the contrary, an end is that which naturally follows on something else, either of necessity or as a rule, while it is followed by nothing. A middle is that which itself follows on something else, and has something following on it.] And in the following Chapter, μυ̑θος δ’ ἐστὶν εἱ̑ς οὐχ ὥσπερ τινὲς οἴονται ἐὰν περὶ ἕνα ᾐ̑, &c. [Unity of plot is not, as some people think, secured by having unity of hero.]
[Let it be what you will, provided only it be consistent and uniform.] See VOL. I. p. 145, 146.
’Tis an infallible proof of the want of just Integrity in every Writing, from the Epopee or Heroick-Poem, down to the familiar Epistle, or slightest Essay either in Verse or Prose, if each several Part or Portion fits not its proper place so exactly, that the least Transposition wou’d be impracticable. Whatever is Episodick, tho perhaps it be a Whole, and in itself intire, yet being inserted, as a Part, in a Work of greater length, it must appear only in its due Place. And that Place alone can be call’d its due-one, which alone befits it. If there be any Passage in the Middle or End, which might have stood in the Beginning; or any in the Beginning, which might have stood as well in the Middle or End; there is properly in such a Piece neither Beginning, Middle, nor End. ’Tis a mere Rhapsody; not a Work. And the more it assumes the Air or Appearance of a real Work, the more ridiculous it becomes. See above, pag. 25. And VOL. I. pag. 145, 146.
[* ] [I shall bid the well-trained imitator to look to the pattern which life presents, and there learn the language of reality.]
The Chief of antient Criticks, we know, extols Homer, above all things, for understanding how “To LYE in perfection”: as the Passage shews which we have cited above, VOL. I. pag. 346. His LYES, according to that Master’s Opinion, and the Judgment of many of the gravest and most venerable Writers, were, in themselves, the justest Moral Truths, and exhibitive of the best Doctrine and Instruction in Life and Manners. It may be ask’d perhaps, “How comes the Poet, then, to draw no single Pattern of the kind, no perfect Character, in either of his Heroick Pieces?” I answer, that shou’d he attempt to do it, he wou’d, as a Poet, be preposterous and false. ’Tis not the Possible, but the Probable and Likely, which must be the Poet’s Guide in Manners. By this he wins Attention, and moves the conscious Reader or Spectator; who judges best from within, by what he naturally feels and experiences in his own Heart. The Perfection of Virtue is from long Art and Management, Self-controul, and, as it were, Force on Nature. But the common Auditor or Spectator, who seeks Pleasure only, and loves to engage his Passion, by view of other Passion and Emotion, comprehends little of the Restraints, Allays and Corrections, which form this new and artificial Creature. For such indeed is the truly virtuous Man; whose ART, tho ever so natural in it-self, or justly founded in Reason and Nature, is an Improvement far beyond the common Stamp, or known Character of Human Kind. And thus the compleatly virtuous and perfect Character is unpoetical and false. Effects must not appear, where Causes must necessarily remain unknown and incomprehensible. A HERO without Passion, is, in Poetry, as absurd as a HERO without Life or Action. Now if Passion be allow’d, passionate Action must ensue. The same Heroick Genius and seeming Magnanimity which transport us when beheld, are naturally transporting in the Lives and Manners of the Great, who are describ’d to us. And thus the able Designer, who feigns in behalf of Truth, and draws his Characters after the Moral Rule, fails not to discover Nature’s Propensity; and assigns to these high Spirits their proper Exorbitancy, and Inclination to exceed in that Tone or Species of Passion, which constitutes the eminent or shining part of each poetical Character. The Passion of an Achilles is towards that Glory which is acquir’d by Arms and personal Valour. In favour of this Character, we forgive the generous Youth his Excess of Ardor in the Field, and his Resentment when injur’d and provok’d in Council, and by his Allies. The Passion of an Ulysses is towards that Glory which is acquir’d by Prudence, Wisdom, and Ability in Affairs. ’Tis in favour of this Character that we forgive him his subtle, crafty, and deceitful Air: since the intriguing Spirit, the over-reaching Manner, and Over-refinement of Art and Policy, are as naturally incident to the experienc’d and thorow Politician, as sudden Resentment, indiscreet and rash Behaviour, to the open undesigning Character of a warlike Youth. The gigantick Force and military Toil of an Ajax wou’d not be so easily credible, or engaging, but for the honest Simplicity of his Nature, and the Heaviness of his Parts and Genius. For Strength of Body being so often noted by us, as un-attended with equal Parts and Strength of Mind; when we see this natural Effect express’d, and find our secret and malicious kind of Reasoning confirm’d, on this hand; we yield to any Hyperbole of our Poet, on the other. He has afterwards his full Scope, and Liberty of enlarging, and exceeding, in the peculiar Virtue and Excellence of his Hero. He may lye splendidly, raise wonder, and be as astonishing as he pleases. Every thing will be allow’d him in return for this frank Allowance. Thus the Tongue of a Nestor may work Prodigys, whilst the accompanying Allays of a rhetorical Fluency, and aged Experience, are kept in view. An Agamemnon may be admir’d as a noble and wise Chief, whilst a certain princely Haughtiness, a Stiffness, and stately Carriage natural to the Character, are represented in his Person, and noted in their ill Effects. For thus the Excesses of every Character are by the Poet redress’d. And the Misfortunes naturally attending such Excesses, being justly apply’d; our Passions, whilst in the strongest manner engag’d and mov’d, are in the wholesomest and most effectual manner corrected and purg’d. Were a Man to form himself by one single Pattern or Original, however perfect; he wou’d himself be a mere Copy. But whilst he draws from various Models, he is original, natural, and unaffected. We see in outward Carriage and Behaviour, how ridiculous any one becomes who imitates another, be he ever so graceful. They are mean Spirits who love to copy merely. Nothing is agreeable or natural, but what is original. Our Manners, like our Faces, tho ever so beautiful, must differ in their Beauty. An Over-regularity is next to a Deformity. And in a Poem, whether Epick or Dramatick, a compleat and perfect Character is the greatest Monster; and of all poetick Fictions not only the least engaging, but the least moral and improving.—Thus much by way of Remark upon poetical TRUTH, and the just Fiction, or artful Lying of the able Poet; according to the Judgment of the Master-Critick. What Horace expresses of the same Lying Virtue, is of an easier sense, and needs no explanation.
[Such is his use of fiction, such his combination of true and false, that the middle does not clash with the beginning or the end with the middle.]
The same may be observ’d not only in Heroick Draughts, but in the inferior Characters of Comedy.
[How like himself each man acts!]
See VOL. I. pag. 4, 142, 143, 337, & 351. in the Notes, at the end.
[* ] VOL. I. pag. 217.
[† ] The Reader, if curious in these matters, may see Is. Vossiusde viribus Rhythmi; and what he says, withal, of antient Musick, and the degrees by which they surpass us Moderns, (as has been demonstrated by late Mathematicians of our Nation) contrary to a ridiculous Notion some have had, that because in this, as in all other Arts, the Antients study’d Simplicity, and affected it as the highest Perfection in their Performances, they were therefore ignorant of Parts and Symphony. Against this, Is. Vossius, amongst other Authors, cites the antient Peripatetick περὶ κόσμον [On the Cosmos] at the beginning of his fifth Chapter. To which he might have added another Passage in Chap. 6. The Sutableness of this antient Author’s Thought to what has been often advanc’d in the philosophical Parts of these Volumes, concerning the universal Symmetry, or Union of the Whole, may make it excusable if we add here the two Passages together, in their inimitable Original. ἴσως δὲ καὶ τω̑ν ἐναντίων ἡ φύσις γλίχεται, καὶ ἐκ τούτων ἀποτελει̑ν τὸ σύμφωνον, οὐκ ἐκ τω̑ν ὁμοίων, ὤσπερ ἀμέλει τὸ ἄρρεν συνήγαγε πρὸς τὸ θη̑λν, καὶ οὐχ ἑκάτεπον πρὸς τὸ ὁμόφυλον, καὶ τὴν πρώτην ὁμόνοιαν διὰ τω̑ν ἐναντίων συνη̑ψεν, οὐ διὰ τω̑ν ὁμοίων. ἔοικε δὲ καὶ ἡ τέχνη τὴν φύσιν μιμουμένη του̑το ποιει̑ν. ζωγραφία μὲν γάρ, λευκω̑ν τε καὶ μελάνων, ὠχρω̑ν τε καὶ ἐρυθρω̑ν χρωμάτων ἐγκερασαμένη φύσεις, τὰς εἰκόνας τοι̑ς προηγουμένοις ἀπετέλεσε συμφώνους. μουσικὴ δέ, ὀξει̑ς ἅμα καὶ βαρει̑ς, μακρούς τε καὶ βραχει̑ς φθόγγους μίξασα, ἐν διαφόροις φωναι̑ς, μίαν ἀπετέλεσεν ἁρμονίαν. γραμματικὴ δέ, ἐκ φωνηέντων καὶ ἀφώνων γραμμάτων κράσιν ποιησαμένη, τὴν ὅλην τέχνην ἀτ’ αὐτω̑ν συνεστήσατο. ταὐτὸ δὲ του̑το ἠ̑ν καὶ τὸ παρὰ τῳ̑ σκοτεινῳ̑ λεγόμενον ‘Ηρακλείτῳ. συνάψειας οὐ̑λα καὶ οὐχὶ οὐ̑λα, συμφερόμενον καὶ διαφερόμενον, συνᾳ̑δον καὶ διᾳ̑δον, καὶ ἐκ πάντων ἕν, καὶ ἐξ ἑνὸς πάντα. And in the following Passage, μία δὲ ἐκ πάντων ἁρμονία συνᾳδόντων καὶ χορευόντων κατὰ τὸν οὐρανόν, ἐξ ἑνός τε γίνεται, καὶ εἰς ἕν ἀπολήγει. κόσμον δ’ ἐτύμως τὸ σύμπαν, ἀλλ’ οὐχ ἀκοσμίαν ὀνομάσαις ἄν. καθάπερ δὲ ἐν χορῳ̑ κορυ-φαίου κατάρξαντος, συνεπηχει̑ πα̑ς ὁ χορὸς ἀνδρω̑ν, ἔσθ’ ὅτε καὶ γυναικω̑ν, ἐν διαφόροις φωναι̑ς ὀξυτέραις καὶ βαρυτέραις, μίαν ἀρμονίαν ἐμμελη̑ κεραννύντων, οὕτως ἔχει καὶ ἐπὶ του̑ τὸ σύμπαν διέποντος Θεου̑. [And perhaps Nature wants opposites too, and wants to make harmony out of them, not out of similars; as, for instance, she brings the male to the female and not each of these to one of his or her own sex; and she made the first concord by means of opposites, not similars. Art too seems to do this in imitation of nature. For painting, by combining the natures of black and white, yellow and red, makes its representations correspond with their types. Music, uniting sharp and grave notes, and long and short syllables, makes one harmony among different sounds. Grammar too, bringing together vowels and consonants, builds her whole art upon them. This is the very point which was given forth by Heraclitus the Obscure, who said, “combine wholes and parts, that which is dispersed and that which is united, that which makes discord and that which is in unison, and out of all comes one and out of one comes all.” . . . There is one harmony arising from all the bodies which sound together and circle in the sky, and it springs from one thing and ends in one. We might with correct etymology call the universe an order, but not a disorder. And, just as in a chorus, when the leader has led off, all the band of men (and sometimes women) joins in, making by combination of different voices, higher and lower, one harmony in unison, so it is also in the case of the Deity who controls the universe.] See VOL. II. pag. 214. And above, pag. 182, 3, 4, 5. in the Notes.