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Of the various species of writing that have been employed, during the last century, as vehicles for amusement and instruction, none has been more popular than that of periodical essays: and perhaps to no other are we so much indebted for the general diffusion of knowledge, and that melioration which the state of society has undergone. In the writings of Addison and his coadjutors, a variety of information on subjects that came home to the business and bosom of every man, was clothed in beautiful and expressive language, and rendered accessible to all classes of readers; and although many of the topics so ably handled in the SPECTATOR and GUARDIAN, are now become obsolete, in consequence of fluctuations in manners and fashions, yet these works still hold the highest rank among the standard productions of English


literature.—Subsequent writers pursued the track thus happily pointed out, and have furnished us with a succession of essays on a similar plan, various in their degrees of merit, from the RAMBLÉR of Dr. Johnson, down to the Pic Nic of recent memory

When we consider the multiplicity of subjects which have been discussed, either directly or incidentally, by the host of periodical writers, it would appear no easy task for the utmost ingenuity to discover a topic that had not already been exhausted. Human nature, it may be alleged, is still the same. The principles of action among mankind have often been investigated; and the workings of the heart, under all the modifications resulting from constitution, education, or external circumstances, laid open to our view. In the science of morals, no new lights have latterly been discovered, from which our duties can be more accurately deduced, or enforced with greater effect. No combination of words is yet known by which truth may be conveyed with irresistible force to the hearts of those who are prepossessed against it, either from inclination or habit; nor can the passions yet be taught to move uniformly at the command of reason.

But though the periodical essayist of the present day must, consequently, labour under many

disadvantages, in common with his predecessors, in addition to others from which they were exempt, there seems no reason why he should be denied the use of that mode of conveying his sentiments, by which they have deservedly obtained the approbation of their countrymen. If he has no recent discoveries in morals to announce, he may still be usefully employed in disseminating old principles, in enforcing them by fresh examples, and applying them to the existing state of society. The useful lesson which has repeatedly been heard with neglect, may obtain attention when delivered in another form, as the appetite of the epicure is stimulated anew to action, by the application of a different seasoning. Manners and fashions are perpetually changing, and afford a constant theme for observation and remark. The passions and affections of the human heart are subject to such an infinite variety of combinations, that some gleanings may yet be found to reward the diligent Inspector. Many doubtful points in different branches of literature remain unsolved; and numerous beauties have never been pointed out in the writings of our eminent authors, or otherwise have been forgotten, which, if pressed upon the attention of youth, might influence them to pursue the paths of virtue with redoubled energy. To these we may add, that

several persons

who have neither time nor inclination to avail themselves of the lucubrations of former writers, may yet be induced to peruse a short essay in the columns of that fashionable vehicle of intelligence—a newspaper. Curiosity may induce others to take a cursory glance for the sakeof guessing at the author; and, “though last, not least,” a wish to find fault with the productions of a contemporary, may be the means of procuring him a multiplicity of readers.

The qualifications requisite for filling with eclat the office of a periodical essayist, are indeed such as can scarcely be found combined in one individual. Some minds are fitted by nature and education for abstruse disquisitions on important topics in morals or literature, who are totally incapable of attaining to the classical suavity of the SPECTATOR, or the broader humour which marks the pages of the CONNOISEUR. On the contrary, others who possess the art of trifling agreeably, are unable to enforce, with proper dignity, the precepts of morality. It has often been observed, that the RAMBLER would have been more attractive to the generality of readers, had the excellent papers it contains been mingled with a greater proportion of others of a lighter nature; and Dr. Johnson, we are informed by one of his biographers, acknowledged the justness of this remark, The periodical essayist,

therefore, who aspires to procure the suffrages of the many, should be able

“ happily to steer
“ From grave to gay, from lively to severe.

Tothe preceding qualifications, however, others ought to be added, in order to give them their full force and effect. What Imlac observes of the accomplished poet, may, in a great measure, be applied to the essayist :-"To him nothing can be useless. Whatever is beautiful, and whatever is dreadful, must be familiar to his imagination; he must be conversant with all that is awfully vast or elegantly little. The plants of the garden, the animals of the wood, the minerals of the earth, and meteors of the sky, must all concur to store his mind with inexhaustible variety; for every idea is useful for the enforcement or decoration of moral or religious truth; and he who knows most, will have most power of diversifying his scenes, and of gratifying his reader with remote allusions and unexpected instruction.

But the knowledge of nature is only half his task; he must be acquainted likewise with all the modes of life. His character requires that he estimate the happiness and misery of every condition; observe the power of all the passions in all their combinations, and trace the changes of the human mind as they

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