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precede, and the terrible horrors that follow, wicked actions. Other poets thought they had sufficiently attended to the moral purpose of the drama by making the Furies pursue the perpetrated crime. Our author waves their
bloody daggers in the road to guilt, and demonstrates that, so soon as a man begins to hearken to ill suggestions, terrors environ and fears distract him. Tenderness and conjugal love combat in the breasts of a Medea and a Herod, in their purposed vengeance. Personal affection often weeps on the theatre, while Jealousy or Revenge whet the bloody knife : but Macbeth's emotions are the struggles of conscience; his agonies are the agonies of remorse. They are lessons of justice, and warnings to innocence. I do not know that any dramatic writer, except Shakspeare, has set forth the pangs of guilt separate from the fear of punishment. Clytemnestra is represented by Euripides, as under great terrors on account of the murder of Agamemnon; but they arise from fear of punishment, not repentance. It is not the memory of the assassinated husband which haunts and terrifies her, but an apprehension of vengeance from his surviving son: when she is told Orestes is dead, her mind is again at ease. It must be allowed that, on the Grecian stage, it is the office of the chorus to moralize, and to point out, on every occasion, the advantages of virtue over vice: but how much less affecting are their animadversions than the testimony of the person concerned! Whatever belongs to the part of the chorus has hardly the force of dramatic imitation. The chorus is in a manner without personal character, or interest, and no way an agent in the drama. We cannot sympathize with the cool reflections of these idle spectators as we do with the sentiments of the persons in whose circumstances and situation we are interested.
HUGII BLAIR, 1718-1800.
DR. HIugu BLAIR, the son of John Blair, a respectable merchant of Edinburgh, was born in that city on the 7th of April, 1718. Afier having gone through the usual grammatical course at the High School, he entered the University of Edinburgh in 1730, where he spent eleven years in the study of literature, philosophy, and divinity. Here he commenced a method of study, which contributed much to the accuracy and extent of his knowledge, and which he practiced, occasionally, even in the latter part of his
life. It consisted in making abstracts of the most important works which he read, and in digesting them according to the train of his own thoughts. In 1739, he received the degree of A. M., and in 1741, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Edinburgh. In the following year, he was settled in the parish of Colessie, in Fifeshire, but was not permitted to remain long in this rural retreat ; for a vacancy occurring in the Canongate Church, in Edinburgh, he was elected its minister. In this station, Dr. Blair remained eleven years, discharging with great fidelity the various duties of the pastoral office, and attracting general admiration for the chaste eloquence of his pulpit discourses.
In 1754, he was transferred from the Canongate to Lady Yester's Church, and in 1758 was promoted to the High Church of Edinburgh, the most important ecclesiastical charge in the kingdom. Hitherto his attention was devoted almost exclusively to the attainment of eminence in his own profession, but in 1759 he delivered a course of Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, with such success that the University instituted a rhetorical class under his direction, and the king founded a professorship, to the chair of which Dr. Blair was appointed. In 1763, he published a "Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian,” which evinced critical taste and learning. In 1777, appeared the first volume of his sermons, which were received with great favor, and had a very extensive circulation. In 1783, he resigned his professorship, and published his celebrated “Lectures on Rhetoric,” which have been a text-book in most of our colleges for half a century. The latter years of his life he spent in literary leisure, giving to the public three more volumes of sermons, and in the summer of 1800, began to prepare an additional volume; but he did not live to complete it, his death occurring December 27th of that year. He had married in 1748 his cousin Miss Bannatine, by whom he had a son and a daughter. But he survived them all.
Though the sermons of Dr. Blair have not the popularity they once enjoyed, they are still very pleasing compositions of the kind; but they may be considered rather as didactic treatises than sermons. Though not profound, they are written with great taste and elegance, and by inculcating Christian morality, without any allusion to controversial topics, are suited to all classes of Christians. They blend, in a happy manner, the light of argument with the warmth of exhortation ; but they never produce deep emotion-never sound the depths of the heart. But it is by his “Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres” that Dr. Blair is now chiefly known; and they are deservedly popular. Though not equal to Campbell's “Philosophy of Rhetoric" in depth of thought or in ingenious original research, they are written in a most pleasing style, convey a large amount of valuable information, suggest many most useful hints, and contain an accurate ana.
Dining with a select company at Mrs. Garrick's, Dr. Johnson said, “ I love Blair's Sermons, though the dog is a Scotchman, and a Presbyterian, and everything he should not be. I was the first to praise them. Such was my candor” (smiling). Mrs. Boscawen.-Such his great merit to get the better of all your prejudices.” Johnson.-"Why, madam, let us compound the matter; let us ascribe it to my candor, and his merit.”—Croker's Boswell, vol. viii. p. 76. lysis of the principles of literary composition in almost every species of writing, and an able digest of the rules of eloquence as adapted to the pulpit, the bar, or to popular assemblies. The time will be far distant, if it ever arrives, when they shall cease to be a text-book for the liberal education of youth.
ON THE CULTIVATION OF TASTE.
Belles lettres and criticism chiefly consider man as a being endowed with those powers of taste and imagination which were intended to embellish his mind, and to supply him with rational and useful entertainment. They open a field of investigation peculiar to themselves. All that relates to beauty, harmony, grandeur, and elegance; all that can soothe the mind, gratify the fancy, or move the affections, belongs to their province. They present human nature under a different aspect from that which it assumes when viewed by other sciences. They bring to light various springs of action, which, without their aid, might have passed unobserved; and which, though of a delicate nature, frequently exert a powerful influence on several departments of human life.
Such studies have also this peculiar advantage, that they exercise our reason without fatiguing it. They lead to inquiries acute, but not painful; profound, but not dry nor abstruse. They strew flowers in the path of science; and while they keep the mind bent, in some degree, and active, they relieve it at the same time from that more toilsome labor to which it must submit in the acquisition of necessary erudition, or the investigation of abstract truth.
The cultivation of taste is farther recommended by the happy effects which it naturally tends to produce on human life. The most busy man, in the most active sphere, cannot be always occupied by business. Men of serious professions cannot always be on the stretch of serious thought. Neither can the most gay and flourishing situations of fortune afford any man the power of filling all his hours with pleasure. Life must always languish in the hands of the idle. It will frequently languish even in the hands of the busy, if they have not some employments subsidiary to that which forms their main pursuit. How then shall these vacant spaces, those unemployed intervals, which more or less occur in the life of every one, be filled up? How can we contrive to dispose of them in any way that shall be more agreeable in itself, or more consonant to the dignity of the human mind, than in the enter
tainments of taste, and the study of polite literature? He who is so happy as to have acquired a relish for these has always at hand an innocent and irreproachable amusement for his leisure hours, to save him from the danger of many a pernicious passion. He is not in hazard of being a burden to himself. He is not obliged to fly to low company, or to court the riot of loose pleasures, in order to cure the tediousness of existence.
Providence seems plainly to have pointed out this useful purpose to which the pleasures of taste may be applied, by interposing them in a middle station between the pleasures of sense and those of pure intellect. We were not designed to grovel always among objects so low as the former; nor are we capable of dwelling constantly in so high a region as the latter. The pleasures of tasto refresh the mind after the toils of the intellect and the labors of abstract study; and they gradually raise it above the attachments of sense, and prepare it for the enjoyments of virtue.
So consonant is this to experience, that, in the education of youth, no object has in every age appeared more important to wise men than to tincture them early with a relish for the entertainments of taste. The transition is commonly made with ease from these to the discharge of the higher and more important duties of life. Good hopes may be entertained of those whose minds have this liberal and elegant turn. It is favorable to many virtues. Whereas to be entirely devoid of relish for eloquence, poetry, or any of the fine arts, is justly construed to be an unpromising symptom of youth; and raises suspicions of their being prone to low gratifications, or destined to drudge in the more vulgar and illiberal pursuits of life.
DELICACY AND CORRECTNESS OF TASTE.
The characters of taste, when brought to its most improved state, are all reducible to two, Delicacy and Correctness.
Delicacy of taste respects principally the perfection of that natural sensibility on which taste is founded. It implies those finer organs or powers which enable us to discover beauties that lie hid from a vulgar eye. One may have strong sensibility, and yet be deficient in delicate taste. He may be deeply impressed by such beauties as he perceives; but he perceives only what is in some degree coarse, what is bold and palpable; while chaster and simpler ornaments escape his notice. In this state, taste generally exists among rude and unrefined nations.
But a person
of delicate taste both feels strongly and feels accurately. He sees distinctions and differences where others see none; the most latent beauty does not escape him, and he is sensible of the smallest blemish. Delicacy of taste is judged of by the same marks that we use in judging of the delicacy of an external sense. As the goodness of the palate is not tried by strong flavors, but by a mixture of ingredients, where, notwithstanding the confusion, we remain sensible of each; in like manner delicacy of internal taste appears by a quick and lively sensibility to its finest, most compounded, or most latent objects.
Correctness of taste respects chiefly the improvement which that faculty receives through its connection with the understanding. A man of correct taste is one who is never imposed on by counterfeit beauties; who carries always in his mind that standard of good sense which he employs in judging of everything. He estimates with propriety the comparative merit of the several beauties which he meets with in any work of genius; refers them to their proper classes; assigns the principles, as far as they can be traced, whence their power of pleasing flows; and is pleased himself precisely in that degree in which he ought, and no more.
It is true that these two qualities of taste, delicacy and correctness, mutually imply each other. No taste can be exquisitely delicate without being correct; nor can be thoroughly correct without being delicate. But still a predominancy of one or other quality in the mixture is often visible. The power of delicacy is chiefly seen in discerning the true merit of a work; the power correctness, in rejecting false pretensions to merit. Delicacy leans more to feeling; correctness, more to reason and judgment. The former is more the gift of nature; the latter, more the product of culture and art. Among the ancient critics, Longinus possessed most delicacy; Aristotle, most correctness. Among the moderns, Mr. Addison is a high example of delicate taste; Dean Swift, had he written on the subject of criticism, would perhaps have afforded the example of a correct one.
It is not easy to describe, in words, the precise impression which great and sublime objects make upon us, when we behold them; but every one has a conception of it. It produces a sort of internal elevation and expansion; it raises the mind much above its ordinary state, and fills it with a degree of wonder and astonishment,