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quick motion, yet of perfect smoothness, is, in reality, an harsh and dragging verse.
Flies o'er th’ unbending corn, and skims along the main."
But if the voice dwells, as it ought, in recitation, upon the words flies and skims, the exact effect is produced that Pope intended; it becomes the smoothest possible line, and presents an admirable picture to the ear, not only of a light swift nymph, but of a bird on quick though unwinnowing pinion,
“ Fli-es o'er th' unbending corn, and ski-ms along the main.”
By mutilating the e in this line, see how Pope dissented from your maxim combated above.
Nor must I suffer you to take from me my favourite word inspirit; because not your brilliant worship's vocabulary, which you will call the whole English language, can supply its place animate will not, since, besides that it is equally of foreign extraction, to animate is to give life, to inspirit-is to give soul.
You have a verbal queasiness about you, which amounts to disease. I hope you like that elegant word. Upon incontrovertible authority have I set a little dozen words upon their joint stools in the poetic fane, which you have attempted to kick
down stairs; but I trust they will maintain their station.
From the extracts I sent you, you have, by this time, received proof, that I did not call Addison's serious prose a water-gruel style, without having found it so, at least in some instances. Nothing wearies me like prosing about and about the good cardinal virtues in their old robes ; but I like to see them glittering in the bright armour of Johnsonian eloquence.
Addison always appeared to me as tautological in his solemn prose as in his verse, when he says,
“ So the pure limpid stream, when fould by stains
There can be no partiality in my boundless preference of Johnson's style, as a moral essayist, to Addison's. I am ready to confess the superiority of the latter in playful composition. Addison died before I was born, and Johnson hated me; against whose writings am I most likely to be prejudiced : But, in truth, I never suffer either personal affection, or dislike, to operate upon what I read. So if, as you insinuate respecting
* What an anti-climax!-S.
these two celebrated authors, I am blind to excellence, and feel myself fired with rapturous approbation where no excellence is, the defect lies in my taste, and in my judgment.
Your wit runs strangely away with you in criticizing poetry, or surely you would feel the happiness of Mr Hayley's simile for the fine luxuriances of genius, lopt away by criticism, when he compares them to Sampson shorn by Dalilah, of his strength-giving tresses. Similies are not expected to be minutely exact; it is enough, if the general resemblance is striking.
That author did not mean that time had made the frolic compositions of Chaucer heavy as lead he uses not the word, but says lead.” Time, rendering their language obsolete, may well be allowed to have made that metal dim, or dark as lead, that once was brilliant as steel and gold.
And what is Hayley's illustration of the bounds which prejudice affixes 'to genius, by an allusion to the pillars of Hercules, supposed, by the ancients, to fix the limits of the world; is that too sublime for your comprehension* ? You!
« dark as
* The three passages alluded to are in Hayley's Epistles on Epic Poetry.--S.
the classical, the learned ! “And who's blind now Mamma, the urchin cried.”
I could dissect many of Milton's sublimest passages, place their imagery and phrases in a ridiculous point of view, with the same ease that prejudice against the moderns induces you to ridicule fine passages in Mason and Hayley, and that envy induced Johnson so to criticise the beauties of Milton, Prior, Gray, &c. &c. Behold a mirror to such critical sophistries.
" Soon as they forth were come to open sight
Paradise Lost, Book 5.
When we place the sun in a chariot, we may mention its wheels ; but personifying the sun as the word his implies, and arising from slumber, we must not give him wheels instead of legs.
" And the thunder,
Natural history is here violated; the properties of lightning are transferred to the mere noise made by its explosion. Thunder is in itself in
noxious; and, after all, this dread instrument of Jehova's wrath is turned into a bull and bellows.
But O! while I thus transform myself into one of those unfeeling critics, of whom my spirit is so impatient, how sincerely do I abjure such sickly accuracy; like that by which you were jaundiced in
strictures on the beauteous extracts I sent you from Mason and Hayley. A nervous and manly understanding ought to shake such verbal prudery to air, as “the lion shakes the dewdrop from his mane."
Lichfield, Nov. 10, 1786.
It was time to abandon your beloved retreat on the ocean's edge, spite of all the elegant comforts with which it has been invested by your active ingenuity.
“ Now winter's turbid seas