sistless' weapons, and impenetrable armour, with the mail of the boar of Erymanth, and the paws of the lion of Nemea. But the works of genius are sometimes produced by other motives than vanity; and he whom necessity or duty enforces to write, is not always so well satisfied with himself, as not to be discouraged by censorious impudence. It may therefore be necessary to consider, how they whom publication lays open to the insults of such as their obscurity secures against reprisals, may extricate themselves from unexpected encounters. Vida, a man of considerable skill in the politicks of literature, directs his pupil wholly to abandon his defence, and even when he can irrefragably refute all objections, to suffer tamely the exultations of his antagonist. This rule may perhaps be just, when advice is asked, and severity solicited, because no man tells his opinion so freely as when he imagines it received with implicit veneration; and criticks ought never to be consulted, but while errours may yet be rectified or insipidity suppressed. But when the book has once been dismissed into the world, and can be no more retouched, I know not whether a very different conductshould not be prescribed, and whether firmness and spirit may not sometimes be of use to overpower arrogance and repel brutality. Softness, diffidence, and moderation, will often be mistaken for imbecility and dejection; they lure cowardice to the attack by the hopes of easy victory, and it will soon be found that he whom every man thinks he can conquer, shall never be at peace. The animadversions of criticks are commonly such as may easily provoke the sedatest writer to Some quickness of resentment and asperity of reply. A man, who by long consideration has familiarized a subject to his own mind, carefully surveyed the Series of his thoughts, and planned all the parts of his composition into a regular dependance on each other, will often start at the sinistrous interpretations or absurd remarks of haste and ignorance, and wonder by what infatuation they have been led away from the obvious sense, and upon what peculiar principles of judgment they decide against him. The eye of the intellect, like that of the body, is not equally perfect in all, nor equally adapted in any to all objects; the end of criticism is to supply its defects; rules are the instruments of mental vision, which may indeed assist our faculties when properly used, but produce confusion and obscurity by unskilful application. Some seem always to read with the microscope of criticism, and employ their whole attention upon minute elegance, or faults scarcely visible to common observation. The dissonance of a syllable, the recurrence of the same sound, the repetition of a particle, the smallest deviation from propriety, the slightest defect in construction or arrangement, Swell before their eyes into enormities. As they discern with great exactness, they comprehend but No. 177, TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 1751


a narrow compass, and know nothing of the justness

of the design, the general spirit of the performance,
the artifice of connection, or the harmony of the
parts; they never conceive how small a proportion
that which they are busy in contemplating bears to
the whole, or how the petty inaccuracies, with which
they are offended, are absorbed and lost in general
Others are furnished by criticism with a telescope.
They see with great clearness whatever is too remote
to be discovered by the rest of mankind, but are
totally blind to all that lies immediately before them.
They discover in every passage some secret mean-
ing, some remote allusion, some artful allegory,
or some occult imitation, which no other reader
ever suspected; but they have no perception of the
cogency of arguments, the force of pathetick senti-
ments, the various colours of diction, or the flowery
embellishments of fancy; of all that engages the
attention of others they are totally insensible, while
they pry into worlds of conjecture, and amuse them-
selves with phantoms in the clouds.
In criticism, as in every other art, we fail some-
times by our weakness, but more frequently by our
fault. We are sometimes bewildered by ignorance,
and sometimes by prejudice, but we seldom deviate
far from the right, but when we deliver ourselves
up to the direction of vanity.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Turpe est difficiles habere mugas.
MART. Lib. ii. Ep. lxxxvi. 9.

Those things which now seem frivolous and slight,
Will be of serious consequence to you,
When they have made you once ridiculous. Roscos(Mon.

SIR, TO THE RAMBLER. HEN I was, at the usual time, about to enter upon the profession to which my friends had destined me, being summoned, by the death of my father, into the country, I found myself master of an unexpected sum of money, and of an estate, which, though not large, was, in my opinion, Sufficient to support me in a condition far preferable to the fatigue, dependance, and uncertainty of any gainful occupation. I therefore resolved to devote the rest of my life wholly to curiosity, and without any confinement of my excursions, or termination of my views, to wander over the boundless regions of general knowledge. This scheme of life seemed pregnant with inexhaustible variety, and therefore I could not forbear to congratulate myself upon the wisdom of my choice. I furnished a large room with all conveniencies for study; collected books of every kind; quitted every science at the first perception of disgust; returned to it again as soon as my former ardour happened to revive; and having no rival to depress me by comparison, nor any critick to alarm me with objections, I spent day after day in pro


found tranquillity, with only so much complaisance
in my own improvements, as served to excite and
animate my application.
Thus I lived for some years with complete ac-
quiescence in my own plan of conduct, rising early
to read, and dividing the latter part of the day be-
tween economy, exercise, and reflection. But, in
time, I began to find my mind contracted and
stiffened by solitude. My ease and elegance were
sensibly impaired; I was no longer able to accom-
modate myself with readiness to the accidental cur-
rent of conversation; my notions grew particular
and paradoxical, and my phraseology formal and
unfashionable; I spoke, on common occasions, the
language of books. My quickness of apprehension,
and celerity of reply, had entirely deserted me;
when I delivered my opinion, or detailed my knowl-
edge, I was bewildered by an unseasonable inter-
rogatory, disconcerted by any slight opposition, and
overwhelmed and lost in dejection, when the small-
est advantage was gained against me in dispute. I
became decisive and dogmatical, impatient of con-
tradiction, perpetually jealous of my character, in-
solent to such as acknowledged my superiority, and
sullen and malignant to all who refused to receive
my dictates.
This I soon discovered to be one of those intel-
lectual diseases which a wise man should make haste
to cure. I therefore resolved for a time to shut my
books, and learn again the art of conversation; to

defecate and clear my mind by brisker motions, and

[ocr errors]
« 前へ次へ »