Page images

the Italians call the Gusto grande in these arts, which is what we call the Sublime in writing.

In the next place, our critics do not seem sensible that there is more beauty in the works of a great genius who is ignorant of the rules of art; than in those of a little genius who knows and observes them. It is of these men of genius that Terence speaks, in opposition to the little artificial cavillers of his time :

Quorum a mulari exoptat negligentiam

Potiùs, quàm iftorum obscuram diligentiam. Whose negligence he would rather imitate, than

these mens obscure diligence. A critic

may have the fame consolation in the illsuccess of his play, as Dr. South tells us a physician has at the death of a patient, that he was killed secundum artem. Our iniinitable Shakespear is a stumbling block to the whole tribe of these rigid critics. Who would not rather read one of his plays, where there is not a single rule of the stage observed, than any production of a modern critic, where there is not any one of them violated ? Shakespear was indeed born with all the feeds of poetry, and may be compared to the stone in Pyrrhus's ring, which, as Pliny tells us, had the figure of Apollo and the nine muses in the veins of it, produced by the fpontaneous hand of nature, without any help from


0 2



Quale per incertam lunam sub luce maligna
Eft iter in sylvis.-

VIRG. Æn. vi. ver. 270.
Thus wander travellers in woods by night,
By the moon's doubtful and malignant light.

DRYDEN. My dreaming correspondent, Mr. Shadow, has

sent me a second letter, with several curious observations on dreams in general, and the method 10 render ileep improving : An extract of his letter will not, I presume, be disagreeable to my readers. Since

we have fo little time to spare, that none of it may be loft, I fee no reason why we fhould neglect to examine those imaginary scenes we are presented with in fleep, only because they

they have a lefs reality in then than our waking • ineditations. A traveller would bring his judge

ment in question, who should despise the direc' tions of his map for want of real roads in it, be

caufe here ftands a dot instead of a town, or a cipher instead of a city, and it must be a long day's journey to travel through two or three inches. Fancy in dreams gives us much such another land. fcape of life as that does of countries, and though its appearances may seem strangely jumbled toge. ther, we may often observe such traces and foot. • fteps of noble thoughts, as, if carefully pursued,

might lead us into a proper path of action. • There is so much rapture and extasy in our fan

cied bliss, and something so dismal and shocking ' in our fancied misery, that though the inactivity • of the body has given occasion for calling sleep • the image of Death, the briskness of the fancy af

á fords

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


« his

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

• fords us a strong intimation of something within

that can never die. • I have wondered, that Alexander the Great, « who came into the world sufficiently dreamt of by parents,

and had himself a tolerable knack at dreaming, should often say, that seep was one < thing which made him fenfible he was mortal. I who

have not such fields of action in the day-time to divert my attention from this matter, plainly

perceive, that in those operations of the mind, • while the body is at reft, there is a certain vast• nefs of conception very suitable to the capacity, ( and demonstrative of the force of that divine part * in our composition which will last for ever. Nei• ther do I much doubt, but had we a true account. • of the wonders the hero last mentioned perform• ed in his sleep, his conquering this little globe • would hardly be worth mentioning. I may affirm, « without vanity, shat when I compare several ac« tions in Quintus Curtius with some others in my

own noctuary, I appear the greater hero of the 6 two.

I shall clofe this subject with observing, that while we are awake we are at liberty to fix our thoughts on what we please, but in fleep we have not the command of them. The ideas which strike the fancy arise in us without our choice, either from the occurrences of the day past, the temper we lie down in, or it may be the direction of some fuperior Being.

It is certain the imagination may be so differently affected in fleep, that our actions of the day mighc be either rewarded or punished with a little age of happiness or mifery. St. Austin was of opinion, that if in Paradise there was the fame viciffitude of sleeping and waking as in the present world, the dreams of its inhabitants would be very happy.

And so far at present our dreams are in our power, that they are generally conformable to our


[ocr errors]

O 3

waking thoughts, fo that it is not impossible to con. vey ourselves to a consort of music, che conversation of distant friends, or any other entertainment which has been before lodged in the mind. My readers, by applying

these hints, will find the neceflity of making a good day of it, if they heartily wish themfelves a good night.

I have often considered Marcia's prayer, and Lucius's account of Cato, in this light.

Marc. O ye immortal powers that guard the juft, Watch round his couch, and soften his repose, Banijo his forrows, and becalm his foul With easy dreams ; remember all his virtues, And few mankind that goodness is your care.

Luc. Sweet are the slumbers of the virtuous man! 0 Marcia, I have seen thy god-like father; Some power invisible supports his soul, And bears it up in all its wonted great ness. A kind refreshing sleep is fallen upon him : I saw him stretch'd at ease, bis fancy loft In pleasing dreams; as I drew near his couch, He smild and cry'd, Cæfar, thou canst not hurt me,

Mr. Shadow acquaints me in a postscript, that he has no manner of title to the vifion which succeeded his first letter ; but adds, that as the gentleman who wrote it dreams very sensibly, he shall be glad to meet him fome night or other, under the great elm tree, by whichi Virgil has given us a fine metaphorical image of sleep, in order to turn over a few of the leaves together, and oblige the public with an account of the dreams that lie under thein,



Absentem qui rodit amicum.;
Qui non defendit alio calpente ; folutos
Qui captat risus hominum, famamque dicacis ;
Fingere qui non visa potest; commissa tacere
Qui nequit; hic niger eft : hunc tu, Romane, caveto,

Hor. Sat. iv. I. i. ver. 81.
He that shall rail against his absent friends,
Or hears them fcandalised, and not defends;
Sports with their fame, and speaks whate'er he

And only to be thought a witty man;
Tells tales, and brings his friend in disesteem:

fefteem; That man's a knave; be sure beware of him.


Ere all the vexations of life put together, we

should find that a great part of them proceed from those calumnies and rep .iches which we fpread abroad concerning one another.

There is scarce a man living who is not, in some degree, guilty of this offence, though, at the fame. time, however we treat one another, it must be confessed, that we all confent in speaking ill of the persons who are notorious for this practice. It generally takes its rise, either from an ill-will to mane kind, a private inclination to make ourselves efteemed, an oftentation of wit, a vanity of being thought in the secrets of the world, or from a defire of gratifying any of thefe dispositions of mind in those persons with whom we converse.

The publisher of fcandal is more or less odious to man d, and criminal in himself, as he is influenced by any one or more of the foregoing mo, tives. But whatever may be the occasion of spread



« PreviousContinue »