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Let Printer's devils too, "a grisly band,"
Ye make no figure with your feeble trash
Few authors write too little, Nine in Ten
Though wits, like bankrupts, oft their golden crop
Some start at highest speed, yet faster still
As those who first lead off the mazy dance,
printing to its former texture, and whiteness. The old excuse for not writing, perituse parcere chartæ, is therefore now done away.
* For some excellent remarks on this subject, see the Edinburgh Review on the different publications of Messrs. Southey and Wordsworth;
But shall these Drawlers dare to form a style, And Pope, and Swift unheeded stand the while? Shall such be read, and Gray be thrown aside, And dust that Harp, the muse's solace hide? As though its chords the graces had not strung, As if e'en sorrow smiled not while he sung! As though, while prejudice and Johnson* frowned, He had not been high Priest of Phoebus crowned. Mourn Conway's heights, if Gray be doomed to die, Mourn the departed dew of Sacred Poesy!
O, when these mighty Masters cease to charm, May life's red tide no more my bosom warm;
"Modeste de tanto Viro pronunciandum." But on the Dr's unfortunate criticism of Gray, G.Wakefield thus expresses himself, "If at any time we feel ourselves dazzled by Dr. Johnson's bright and diffusive powers of understanding, we may turn for relief to his criticisms upon Gray, and to his prayers and meditations." But he makes up for this in another place, thus, "I esteem his lives of the English Pocts to be
noblest specimen of entertaining and solid criticism that modern times have produced, well worthy of ranking on the same shelf with Aristotle, and Quintilian." From this last sentence the hallowed shade of Milton turns with indignation; the salt that will preserve the Lives of the Pots, is to be found in the comparison that work contains of Pope and Dryden, and in the account of the metaphysical Poets. For the respective merits of Johnson and Wakefield on Gray, vide appendix. By the bye, Gray's two finest odes narrowly escaped the fate to which Virgil had doomed his Æneid; in consequence of some fastidious cavils of Mason, to whose perusal Gray had submitted them. Mason criticising Gray! Anger-Olorem!
My refuge, and my prize, their hallowed page
Abundat dulcibus vitiis.
It will be obvious to any reader of Hudibras, that memory was the most faithful handmaid of the Author's wit. This it was that so readily presented him with the most unexpected and remote resemblances; drawn from things, and circumstances, with which his profound erudition had previously stored his mind. Mere reading without memory never could have effected this. We are told writing makes an exact man, speaking a ready man, and reading a full man-I fear we might often add a dull man. It was well said by some one of himself, "I should have been as stupid as the Commentators, if
O Thou to whom the talents rare belong
To explore the source, and rule the tide of song!
Serene that canst, with wisdom's tempering rein
O come! I shall at thy tribunal kneel
For wit, though Butler own it, hath been shown To be no longer wit, too thickly sown;
I had read as much." Two men shall read the same Authors, with the same diligence; one shall have a good memory, the other a bad one; the difference between them will be this; the former keeps a shop well assorted, and well arranged; and can oblige his friends with any article at a moment's notice; the latter also keeps a shop, which is equally full, but in the utmost disorder, and confusion; in so much that he is entirely at a loss where to look for any article in demand;
As Diamonds set tco close, in solid mass, Appear not diamonds, but a lump of glass.. Where all is wit* Men think that none is there, As stars are hid in light, and lost in glare.
which therefore his customers are likely to go without, unless they can find it themselves.
* Pope carried this rule too far when he observed, "Rather than all things wit, let none be there." But of all the rules laid down by him, this is the only one the moderns have religiously observed. It has been remarked that there is not a single joke in all Demosthenes; Cicero's two witticisms, or rather puns, are wretched; Milton's attempts of this kind are, if possible, worse; Mr. Pitt, on one occasion, only, ventured on wit; and Burke's quotation on seeing Wilkes chaired by the mob, "Numerisque fertur lege solutis;" is recorded as the only witty thing uttered by him. But on the other hand, the Earl of Chatham and Mr. Sheridan are shining instances that wit is not incompatible with the highest flights of eloquence. If we are to believe the Commentators, an union of the sublime and the witty, is impossible. Two instances however of such an union, I think, may be found in the two following passages, which must conclude this rambling note.
"Superior beings when of late they saw,
And showed a Newton- —as we show an Ape."
"For loyalty is still the same,
Whether it win or lose the Game,
True, as the dial to the sun,