Abbildungen der Seite

it is become posthumous ; since, however improbable it may be, that its blaze, or its cessation, can be an object of attention to the beatified spirit, whose exertions, while on earth, had produced it; so far, at least, an object of attention as inspiring, or gratifying vanity or ambition; yet, if we retain any consciousness of what passed, and yet passes on earth, when ourselves have soared above it, the consciousness of being remembered with esteem and honour by our fellow-creatures on the score of virtuous compositions, will probably prove a source of delight, worthy to be admitted into the number of angelic gratifications. Grateful to the purest nature must be the consciousness that we had employed the talents committed to our cultivation, in alleviating sorrow and care in our fellow creatures, by compositions that soften, refine, and exalt the human mind; that foster its gentleness, and strengthen its virtue. There surely can be no degradation of angelic dignity, in the belief that it will have pleasure in perceiving that the fruits of its earthly industry continue to inspire virtuous pleasure through passing generations. That charming poem, Edwy and Edilda, so justly styled, by the Monthly Review, a domestic epic poem, is eminently calculated to improve and delight the mind of youth ; and I repeat my exhortations, that you will re

publish it with its new termination, so much more consonant to poetic justice, and the gratification of the reader.

You quote Madam Genlis. Do you not object to her system concerning the choice of books for young people? She wishes that authors of first-rate excellence should be withheld from our youth, during those fresh and vivid years, when the perceptions are in their first poignancy.

I differ from her totally. Whatever books are put into the hands of sensible ingenious young people, between the age of twelve and eighteen, will, I am convinced, fix their taste in reading. A work of mediocrity, if it is in any degree interesting, will, during that lively interval, inspire more delight, than can be produced by compositions of a far higher class, when the first fine edge of the feelings is taken off. The mind always acquires a fond predilection for that species of writing which had borne away the early fruits of its ripening sensibilities. It is therefore of the utmost importance to the future strength of intellect, that the literary taste in opening youth be set high.

What a treasure is your last letter! How completely does it place us in scenery so inevitably dear to a poetic imagination! As late you shewed me the calm, so now you make me

see the

swoln and agitated waters of Vaucluse; and each are alike interesting. Ah! those cypresses!—what striking memorials! The detestable portraits of Petrarch and Laura, in the Castle of Sommane, ought to make people, whose personal representation is likely to interest generations yet unborn, careful how they leave behind them disagreeable pictures, which must hereafter disappoint the anxious gazer, and outrage his inagination, by forcing upon it an idea uncongenial to his preconceptions, and destructive of their enthusiasm. The winter has been, with us, very long and

A sharp, gloomy, and steril frost, attended with frequent storms of snow, even yet


“ Chills our pale morns, and bids the driving sleet
Deform our days delightless.”

By this time, it is broad and sultry summer with you. I know how much you luxuriate in glowing suns, and I hope you enjoy them on your classic plains of Petrarchian consecration. But I had much rather you were, at this instant, rubbing your hands over an English fire, and breathing phillipics on our wayward and disappointing climate.



Lichfield, April 10, 1785. Health is become to me a very rigorous taskmistress. The exercise she exacts most inconveniently abridges my epistolary leisure.

Mr Boswell lately passed a few days in Lichfield. I did not find him quite so candid and ingenuous on the subject of Johnson, as I had hoped from the style of his letters. He affected to distinguish, in the despot's favour, between envy and literary jealousy. I maintained, that it was a sophistic distinction, without a real difference. Mr Boswell urged the unlikelihood that he, who had established his own fame on other ground than that of poetry, should envy poetic reputation, especially where it was posthumous; and seemed to believe that his injustice to Milton, Prior, Gray, Collins, &c. proceeded from real want of taste for the higher orders of verse, his judgment being too rigidly severe to relish the enthusiasms of imagination.

Affection is apt to start from the impartiality of calling faults by their proper names.

Mr Boswell soon after, unawares, observed that Johnson had been galled by David Garrick's instant success, and long eclat, who had set sail with himself on the sea of public life; that he took an aversion to him on that account; that it was a little cruel in the great man not once to name David Garrick in his preface to Shakespeare! and base, said I, as well as unkind. Garrick ! who had restored that transcendent author to the taste of the public, after it had recreantly and long receded from him ; especially as this restorer had been the companion of his youth. He was galled by Garrick's prosperity, rejoined Mr Boswell. Ah! said I, you now, unawares, cede to my position. If the author of the Rambler could stoop to envy a player, for the hasty splendour of a reputation, which, compared to his own, however that might, for some time, be hid in the night of obscurity, must, in the end, prove as the meteor of an hour to the permanent light of the sun, it cannot be doubted, but his injustice to Milton, Gray, Collins, Prior, &c. proceeding from the same cause, produced that levelling system of criticism, “ which lifts the mean, and lays the mighty low.” Mr Boswell's comment upon

this observation was, that dissenting shake of the head,

« ZurückWeiter »