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a higher finishing? Is this less numerous ? Per. haps the poet fo designed it, to raise the imagination still higher, when we come to sublimer and more fonorous subjects. Does not even variety, which goes so far to constitute what is beautiful, carry with it a fuppofal of inferiority and subordination ? Nay, where no other confideration can be presumed, fome allowances surely are to be given to the infirmity of human nature.
'Tis the artist of a lower class who finishes all alike. If you examine the designs of a masterly hand, you'll perceive how rough these colours are laid on, how slightly that is touched, in order to carry on your view to what is principal, and deserves the chief attention : for by this correspondence and relation, and by thus making each part subservient to the other, a whole is formed.
And were it not a degree of prophanation, I might here mention the great Designer, who has Aung some things into such strong shades, that 'tis no wonder so much gloominess and melancholy is raised in rude and undisciplined minds . the sublime Maker, 4 who has fer this universe before us as a book; yet what superficial readers
4 Milton VIII, 67.
are we in this volume of nature? Here I am certain we must become good men, before we become good critics, and the first step to wisdom is humility.
In a word, the most judicious critics, as well as the most approved authors are fallible ; the former therefore should have some modesty, the latter fome allowances. But modesty is of the highest importance, when a critical inquirer is examining writings which are truly originals ; such as Homer among the ancients, Milfon and Shakespeare among the moderns. Here we are to proceed with caution, with doubt and hesitation. Such authors are really 5 Makers, as the original word Poet imports. In their extensive
minds 5 Sir Philip Sydney in his defence of poefie, “ The “ Greekes named him FIQIHTHN, which name hath, as the “ moft excellent, gone through other languages : it com“ meth of this word noiein, which is to make : wherein " I know not whether by lycke or wisdome wee Englishmen “ have met with the Greekes in calling him a faker." Johnson in his Discoveries, “ A poet is that which by the
Greeks is called xat' itoxw, O HOIHTHE, a maker, or “ a feigner, &c.” And in Every Man out of his Humour. A& III. Sc. VI. “ Cor. I would fain hear one of these “ autumne judgments define once, Quid fit Comoedia ? If he
cannot, let him content himself with Cicero's definition, “ ('till he have strength to propose to himself a better) “ who would have a comedy to be Imitatio vitæ, Speculum
minds the forms and species of things lie in embryo, 'till call’d forth into being by expressions answering their great idea.
confuetudinis, imago veritatis ; a thing throughout plea
fant, and ridiculous, and accommodated to the correction “ of manners : if the Maker have failed in any particle “ of this, they may worthily tax him." So in his translation of Hor. art. poet. Dostum imitatorem : “ the learned “ Maker.” So Spencer uses the verb, to make, in his Fairy Queen, B. 3. c. 2. ft. 3.
“ But ah! my rhimes too rude and rugged are,
By Tityrus, he means Chaucer.
So too B. Johnson in his Epigrammes.
To John Donne.
“ That so alone canft judge, so' alone doft make. Ilovsīv, verfus facere. Julian in his Caefars, "Nonie "Oumpo ógows IOINN ?on. Xenophon. in Sympos. "Ise yap dømte ότι ο Όμηρο σοφώτατG- ΠΕΠΟΙΗΚΕ σχεδόν σερί πάντων των ανθρωπίνων. Ρlato in Ione, 'Αλλα θεία μοίρα τέτο μόνον υιός τε έκασΘ- ΠΟΙΕΙΝ καλώς, εφ' η μέσα αυτόν ώρμησαν.
6- The poet's eye in a fine frenzy rowling,
" to heav'n:
"Twere well therefore if a careful and critical reader would first form to himself some plan, when he enters upon an author deserving a ftricter inquiry : if he would consider that originals have a manner always peculiar to themselves; and not only a manner, but a language : if he would compare one passage with another ; for such authors are the best interpreters of their own meaning: and would reflect, not only what allowances may be given for obsolete modes of speech, but what a venerable cast this alone often gives a writer. I omit the previous knowledge in ancient customs and manners, in grammar and construction ; the knowledge of these is presupposed; to be caught tripping here is an ominous stumble at the very threshold and entrance upon criticism ; 'tis ignorance, which no
6 A Midsummer-Night's Dream, A& V.
guess-work, no divining faculty, however ingenious, can atone and commute for.
A learned ? wit of France mentions a certain giant, who could easily swallow windmills, but was at last choak'd with a lump of fresh butter. Was not this exactly the case of Bentley, that giant in criticism, who having at one mouthful swallowed his learned antagonists, yet could not digest an English author, but exposed himself to the censure of boys and girls ? Indeed 'tis but a filly figure the best make, when they get beyond their sphere ; or when with no settled scheme in view, with no compass or card to direct their little skiff, they launch forth on the immenfe ocean of criticism.
7 Rabelais, B. IV. c. ivii.
F all the various tribes of critics and com
mentators, there are none who are so apt to be led into errors, as those who, quitting the plain road of common sense, will be continually hunting after paradoxes, and spinning cobwebs out of their own brains. To pass over the caba-