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Cicero strike shame and confusion into the breasts of Anthony or Catiline ; and did not the eloquence of St. Paul, though bound in degrading fetters, make the oppressive, the abandoned Felir tremble, and almost persuade Agrippa, in spite of all his prejudice, to be a' christian Homer after his death
? was looked upon as more than human, and temples were erected to his honour; and was not St. Paul admired as a god, even whilst he was on earth, when the inhabitants of Lystra would have sacrificed to him? Let his writings be examined and judged by the severest test of the severest critics, and they cannot be found deficient; nay, they will appear more abundantly stocked with sublime and pathetic thoughts, with strong and beautiful figures, with nervous and elegant expressions, than any other composition in the world.
But, to leave this digression: It is a remark of Sir William Temple, that no pure Greek was written after the reign of the Antonini. But the diction of Longinus, though less pure than that of Aristotle, is elegant and nervous, the conciseness or diffuseness of his periods being always suited to the nature of his subject. The terms he uses are generally so strong and expressive, and sometimes so artfully com
pounded, that they cannot be rendered into another language without wide circumlocution. He has a high and masculine turn of thought, unknown to any other writer, which inforced him to give all possible strength and energy to his words, that his language might be properly adjusted to his sense, and the sublimity of the latter be uniformly supported by the grandeur of the former.
But further, there appears not in him the least shew or affectation of learning, though his stock was wonderfully large, yet without any prejudice to the brightness of his fancy. Some writers are even profuse of their commendations of him in this respect. For how extensive must his reading have been, to deserve those appellations given him by Euna-X pius, that he was a living library, and a walking museum ? Large reading, without a due balance of judgment, is like a voracious appetite with a bad digestion ; it breaks out, according to the natural complexion of different persons, either into learned dulness, or a brisk but insipid pedantry. In Longinus, it was so far from palling or extinguishing, that on the contrary it sharpened and enlivened his taste. He was not so surly as to reject the sentiments of others without examination, but he had the wisdom to stick by his own.
Let us pause a little here, and consider what a disagreeable and shocking contrast there is between the Genius, the Taste, the Candos, the Good-nature, the Generosity, and Modesty of Longinus, and the Heaviness, the Dulness, the snarling and sneering Temper of modern Critics, who can feast on inadvertent slips, and triumph over what they think a blunder. His very Rules are shining Examples of what they inculcate ; his Remarks the very Excellencies he is pointing out. Theirs are often Inversions of what is right, and sinking other men by clogging them with a weight of their own Lead. He keeps the same majestic pace, or soars aloft with his authors; they are either creeping after, or plunging below them, fitted more by nature for Heroes of a Dunciad, than for Judges of fine sense and fine writing. The business of a Critic is not only to find fault, nor to be all bitterness and gall. Yet such behaviour, in those who have usurped the name, has brought the office into scandal and contempt. An Essay on Criticism appears but once in an age ; and what a tedious interval is there between Longinus and Mr. Addison.
Having traced our author thus far as a Critic, we must view him now in another light, I mean as a Philosopher. In him these are not
different, but mutually depending and co-
proper understanding of himself, without worthy notions of the Supreme Being. The sad depravations of the pagan world are chiefly to be attributed to a deficiency in this respect. Homer has exalted his heroes at the expence of his deities, and sunken the divine nature far below the human; and therefore deserves that censure of blasphemy which Longinus has passed upon him. Had the poet designed to have turned the imaginary gods of his idolatrous countrymen into ridicule, he could hardly have taken a better method. Yet what he has said has never been understood in that light; and though the whole may be allegorical, as his Commentators would fain persuade us, yet this will be no excuse for the malignancy of its effects on a superstitious
world. The discourses of Socrates, and the writings of Plato, had in a great measure corrected the notions of inquisitive and thoughtful men in this particular, and caused the distinction of religion into vulgar and philosophical. By what Longinus has said of Homer, it is plain to me, that his religion was of the latter sort. Though we allow him not to be a Christian or a Jewish convert, yet he was no idolater, since without a knowledge and reverence of the divine perfections, he never could have formed his noble ideas of human nature.
This life he considers as a public theatre, on which men are to act their parts. A thirst after glory, and an emulation of whatever is great and excellent, is implanted in their minds, to quicken their pursuits after real grandeur, and to enable them to approach, as near as their finite abilities will admit, to divinity itself. Upon these principles, he accounts for the vast stretch and penetration of the human understanding; to these he ascribes the labours of men of genius ; and by the predominancy of them in their minds, ascertains the success of their attempts. In the same manner he accounts for that turn in the mind, which biasses us to adınire more what