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without danger. A frame formed and constituted on this model would have a chance of a long and healthy life; but it would also run great risque of not enjoying a very gay one. The soul which might appertain to a body of this construction, would contract precisely that habit of complaint and grumbling, so remarkable among the inhabitants of beautiful and happy England."
Politics are so often introduced now-a-days into medicine, that the introduction of a physiological comparison into politics may be fairly allowed.
TO M. BOUSQUET.
We complain at Paris that our seven or eight journals become almost exclusively political, stifle literary criticism, and prevent the journals devoted to belles, lettres and the sciences from finding subscribers, or even readers. Our Journal de Savans remains almost unknown; the Revue Encyclopedique has little more circulation, notwithstanding the excellence of its plan, and the pledge of merit supplied by the great names which adorn its wrapper. In London, more than fifty daily or weekly gazettes do no injury to a dozen quarterly reviews, and more than fifty monthly reviews, which altogether circulate 120,000 copies. Less surprise will be excited by this fact, when it is known that the greater part of these works are really in the pay of some given bookseller, who converts them into an actual catalogue raisonne of his commodities. These gentlemen have often the good sense to confide the editorship to men of real talent. Generally speaking, the class of English booksellers have deserved well of the cause of literature. These literary bankers are themselves literati. Their conversation is often equal to their better class of books; I should be sorry to detract from ours, but in order to speak of them as favourably, it will be necessary to judge them by exceptions. I shall not say all that is to be said to-day about those of London; nor about the different periodical publications. My intention, previous to treating of the poets of England, is to make known the genuine spirit of the two great critical authorities which protect or oppress them. The Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews exercise so great an influence in the three kingdoms, that their history almost comprises that of the whole of literature. I reserve to myself a right to appeal more than once from their decisions, or to combat them, while I attempt to analyze the various remarkable works of the age.
Before the appearance of the Spectator, it may be said that there was nothing but anarchy in the republic of letters. Addison and Steele took upon themselves the office of censors, in order to re-establish order. This censorship was naturally calculated to extend itself to morals, which, certainly, stood in need of it at the period in question. Immorality and debauchery were preached from the stage; the upper classes of the nation combined a taste for vulgar pleasures with that of luxury; a woman was either the doll of the toilet or the head servant of the manege. The Spectator, by the cultivation of ancient literature, and the charms of his classical style, recalled genius to the wholesome rules of taste; by his ingenious satires, he polished, in some degree, the forms of society; by his often poetical apologues, and by his elegant dissertations on a philosophy more amiable than profound, he advocated the cause of morality. The extraordinary run which these daily papers had is recorded by contemporary writers. Budgel affirms that as many as 20,000 Spectators were sold daily, which was immense under such a reign as that of the phlegmatic William, at a time when the greater part of the nobility were still at their ABC. Queen Anne encouraged instruction more, or, at least, did not oppose the direction of the public mind towards the peaceable glory of letters. The imitations of the Spectator in foreign countries contributed to render the English of that period more vain of these brilliant essays.
One of the charms of these pictures of manners and lively criticisms, was the dramatic framework, of which Addison and Steele conceived the fortunate idea. The personages of different characters and tastes who composed the club of the Spectator, or corresponded with him, impart life and motion to the whole work. It is impossible not to love the worthy Sir Roger de Coverley, as an old friend, whose least words are scrupulously preserved. And here I cannot debar myself the pleasure of fixing your attention for a moment on the two founders of periodical writing. Steele, especially, is little known amongst us. He has been the subject of a very interesting biography, by Dr. Drake. The friend and associate of the discreet Addison did not exhibit the character of a secluded literatus. He was one of those individuals who are easily duped by their own imagination, and prefer their caprices to their interests. The first trait of his youth was an earnest of his whole life. He expected his fortune from an uncle, who, being of an eccentric disposition, declared that no soldier, even if it were Hannibal himself, should be his heir; but Steele had with enthusiasm beheld a regiment on its march; his heart had beat at the sound of the drum; he believed that he had an irresistible call to become a hero, and renounced every other prospect, in order to enrol himself as a private soldier in the horse guards. Being shortly promoted to the rank of ensign, he plunged into all the dissipations of the town. But he also assumed the vocation of a man of letters, and a moralist, which he found sufficient time to discharge. The whole of his Christian Hero was composed, as it were, in the interval between the
disorders of the evening and those of the morning: each chapter was a religious expression of his morning repentance, for which his evening orgy supplied the text of a new page. He was at one and the same time a man of fashion and a philosophical censor.
He wrote his ingenious essays in the course of the day, wearing an enormous perruque, which cost fifty guineas. Having built an elegant chateau, he found it necessary to reconcile this luxury with his precepts of economy. The chateau was, accordingly, called a cottage. It was he who set the public right on the subject of the South Sea bubble, while he himself invented projects not less extravagant. At all times, and in all places, Steele made himself useful to others. Faithful as a friend, and generous as an enemy, injuring nobody but himself by his indecision ; he found himself forgotten, when he no longer played a part on the tumultuous stage of the fashionable world, and ended his days in involuntary exile, having spent and lavished his talent as well as his fortune.
More negligent, less pure, and less amiable than Addison, he displayed more originality, variety, and vigour in his portraits. Perhaps Addison was his superior in painting the passions, and it is probable that Steele, for want of study, only excelled in the art of seizing the exterior traits of an individual character.
To the Spectators, the Tatlers, the Guardians, succeeded the Freethinkers, the Politicians, the Freemen, the Memoirs of the Society of Grub