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citation of desires, which he feels himself unable to gratify."
But he who declines to act till he can reach ideal excellence, is a selfish coward; and surely he, who by a generous venture attains a very moderate degree of merit, is at least far preferable to him who wraps himself up in conceit of his own importance, because he never made an attempt.
Of many of the defects of the series of moral and critical essays the Ruminator is too sensible, to add his aid to the discernment of others in discovering them. Almost all the interest which they lay claim to is, that they are (such of them he means as were written by himself) the undisguised pictures of his own mind. And we have many high authorities for asserting, that there are scarce any minds, however small their pretensions may be to extraordinary endowment, of which genuine and unsophisticated delineations will not afford either instruction or amusement.
To say the same things as have been said a thousand times before, not from individual feeling or individual conviction, but merely by drawing from the stores of the memory, may perhaps be fairly deemed an hollow and unavailing echo. But it is far otherwise with ibat, which springs from the inmost recesses of the heart or the intellect. There is a strength, a distinctness, a raciness, in what thus issues from the fountain-head, which is never brought forth in vain.
All the varieties of the human understanding, the different lights in which the same objects appear to different faculties and dispositions, the minute shades of distinction which the complex operations of head and
temper suggest, afford inexhaustible subjects of description for the use of the moral philosopher, and the metaphysician, to whom such descriptions possess the merit and use of original evidence, while the transmissions of the memory are, like hear-say testimony, of little value.
If the flow of feeling have ever given to these Essays any approach to eloquence, if the movements of the heart have produced any thing of more permanent interest than the capricious and uncertain operations of the head, the writer's time and endeavours will not have been spent totally in vain.
If it be complained that the same topics more often recur than is consistent with the love of diversity, which characterizes the public taste, leit be recollected, that nothing much above the common can be hoped, even from the most powerful talents, without long meditation and mental digestion; and surely it is better to dwell on that which gives the chance of displaying depth and novelty of thought, than to skim the surface for the sake of a greater change of views; for it cannot be expected that the same person should have leisure, or inclination for both.
The generality of mankind indeed spend their days in a kind of twilight of thought: ideas pass indistinctly before them, without examination, or being tried by the test of language; or at least by any other language than that which in oral delivery does not sufficiently betray their imperfectness. But as he, in whom the flame of the better part of our nature burns, can never be content to dream away his life without leaving some memorial of those faculties with which he has been endowed, and as the mind can only acquire facility and
and strength by incessant exercise, he becomes dis contented and miserable while he omits the requisite labour.
Could the Author have attained the delicate and serenely rich beauties of Addison, or the overflowing strength and philosophical perspicuity of Johnson, he would not now have to look back with regret and anxiety on the inefficacy of his own endeavours. But while it is better to have reached even mediocrity than to have done nothing, he may, on a few themes, which have for years been revolving in his mind, still flatter himself with the hope of exciting the sympathy of readers of cultivated taste.
In the retirement of a studious life, in the bosom of fields and woods, he is often so filled with the realities. of natural beauty, as to rest contented with passive admiration. The repose of delight would only be disturbed by the attempt at description; and the colourings of fancy would be more than superfluous. In the tumult of present joys our ideas are often too confused to be analysed. It is from a certain distance that they are best reflected by the mind. It is then that the prominent features remain, while all that tended only to dazzle, has faded away.
Such perhaps may be amongst the reasons why he has been able to transfuse into these essays so little of the spirit or the tints of the enchanting scenery which surrounds him.
But to waste more words in apology is vain. The attempt to conciliate the public, or even himself, to these Essays, if the Essays themselves do not produce that conciliation, is without hope, and would, even were it not hopeless, be without final use. They are
now at the mercy of the world, and cannot be recalled. They stand before the impartial reader with all their imperfections; and from them will the Author's humble capacity for Essay-writing be judged, in spite of all he can say. Some wonder at his rashness; some sneer at his stupidity; and many, who never tried themselves what it is to proceed in so perilous a task, are surprised at the utter failure of his attempts.
The Author, morbidly alive as his first feelings are to disappointment or neglect, has learned to endure, with tolerable fortitude, the consequences of committing himself to the public view, and if he cannot always sufficiently moderate his emotions at insult or neglect, nor suddenly recover from the blight of ungenerous discouragement, he has taught his mind to subside gradually into a calmness which can abide the results. of his adventrous love of fame. Some friends he has the satisfaction of knowing that he has secured by these Essays, and of some noble minds he has had the good fortune to acquire the praise, whose approbation replaces him in humour with himself, and makes him. amends for many mortifications.
To Mr. Lofft THE RUMINATOR is indebted for some pieces of valuable poetry. One other friend only has he to thank for aid in these Essays. To the nephew and biographer of a lady of celebrated learning and genius lately deceased he is obliged for several papers composed at his desire, which, if not the most numerous, are the most valuable of the series.
For the fate of those which remain, the writer cannot suppress his solicitude; for from them it will probably hereafter be determined, whether he has justly aspired to some qualities of the mind, of which the deficiency will
will hereafter cloud the recollection of him which he is so anxious should survive the grave.
May 21, 1809.
Art. XVI. Literary Obituary.
1809. Feb. 15. Mr. James Smith Barr, translator of Buffon's Natural History.
March 5. In Patrick-Square, Edinburgh, Mr. William Browne, projector and Editor of “ The Edinburgh Weekly Journal."
March 11. Mrs. Cowley, at Tiverton, Devon, an eminent dramatic writer.
March 23. At his house in Clipstone-street, London, after a lingering and painful illness, Mr. Thomas Holcroft, author of “Hugh Trevor," “ The Road to Ruin," and a number of other works. He was in his 61st year.
March 25. “At the Episcopal Palace of Lichfield, in her sixty-sixth year, Miss Anna Seward, author of Louisa, of A Monody on Major André, of a Life of Dr. Darwin, and of various other productions. Few women exhibited more strength of intellect or more delicacy of taste. Her poetry is particularly distinguished by beauty of imagery and vigour of sentiment. She has sometimes been thought affectedly elaborate; but her pictures are never indistinct, and the whole is exquisitely finished. In critical acumen she was always unrivalled; and no latent excellence nor defect could escape her observation. She had the poet's taste and the poet's eye. In her moral temperament there was no ill-nature, no malignity; notbing selfish, nothing base. She was generous without ostentation; but she was generous in the extreme. She was fond of praise; but she was liberal in bestowing it. Her friends were very numerous; and they composed no small part of the virtue and genius of the times. Taste so re