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belaboured by all the boys of the village without stirring a foot for it; and another of them tossing to and fro in his bed and burning with resentment, to a piece of flesh broiled on the coals. This particular failure in the ancients opens a large field of raillery to the little wits, who can laugh at an indecency but not relish the sublime in these sorts of writings. The present Emperor of Persia, conformable to this Eastern way of thinking, amidst a great many pompous titles, denominates himself the Sun of Glory and the Nutmeg of Delight. In short, to cut off all cavilling against the ancients, and particularly those of the warmer climates, who had most heat and life in their imaginations, we are to consider that the rule of observing what the French call the bienséance in an allusion, has been found out of latter years and in the colder regions of the world; where we would make some amends for our want of force and spirit, by a scrupulous nicety and exactness in our compositions. Our countryman Shakespeare was a remarkable instance of this first kind of great geniuses.

I cannot quit this head without observing that Pindar was a great genius of the first class, who was hurried on by a natural fire and impetuosity to vast conceptions of things, and noble sallies of imagination. At the same time, can anything be more ridiculous than for men of a sober and moderate fancy to imitate this poet's way of writing in those monstrous compositions which go among us under the name of Pindarics? When I see people copying works which, as Horace has represented them, are singular in their kind and inimitable; when I see men following irregularities by rule, and by the little tricks of art straining after the most

unbounded flights of nature, I cannot but apply to them that passage in Terence :

-incerta hæc si tu postules

Ratione certa facere, nihilo plus agas,

Quam fides operam, ut cum ratione insanias.1

In short, a modern pindaric writer compared with Pindar, is like a sister among the Camisars compared with Virgil's sybil. There is the distortion, grimace, and outward figure, but nothing of that divine impulse which raises the mind above itself, and makes the sounds more than human.


There is another kind of great geniuses which I shall place in a second class, not as I think them inferior to the first, but only for distinction's sake, as they are of a different kind. This second class of great geniuses are those that have formed themselves by rules, and submitted the greatness of their natural talents to the corrections and restraints of art. Such among the Greeks were Plato and Aristotle, among the Romans Virgil and Tully, among the English Milton and Sir Francis Bacon.

The genius in both these classes of authors may be equally great, but shows itself after a different manner. In the first it is like a rich soil in a happy climate, that produces a whole wilderness of noble plants rising in a thousand beautiful landscapes without any certain order or regularity. In the other 1 Eunuchus,' Act i. sc. 1.

2 The Camisars, or French Prophets, from the Cevennes, came to England in 1707. They prophesied, and said they could work miracles; and their strange actions and convulsions formed the subject of a number of pamphlets.

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it is the same rich soil under the same happy climate, that has been laid out in walks and parterres, and cut into shape and beauty by the skill of the gardener.

The great danger in these latter kind of geniuses is, lest they cramp their own abilities too much by imitation, and form themselves altogether upon models, without giving the full play to their own natural parts. An imitation of the best authors, is not to compare with a good original; and I believe we may observe that very few writers make an extraordinary figure in the world, who have not something in their way of thinking or expressing themselves that is peculiar to them and entirely their own.

It is odd to consider what great geniuses are sometimes thrown away upon trifles.

I once saw a shepherd,' says a famous Italian author, 'who used to divert himself in his solitudes with tossing up eggs and catching them again without breaking them; in which he had arrived to so great a degree of perfection, that he would keep up four at a time for several minutes together playing in the air, and falling into his hand by turns. I think,' says the author, 'I never saw a greater severity than in this man's face; for by his wonderful perseverance and application, he had contracted the seriousness and gravity of a privy-councillor; and I could not but reflect with myself, that the same assiduity and attention, had they been rightly applied, might have made him a greater mathematician than Archimedes.'


No. 161.


Tuesday, Sept. 4, 1711


Ipse dies agitat festos: fususque per herbam,
Ignis ubi in medio et socii cratera coronant,
Te libans, Lenæe, vocat: pecorisque magistris
Velocis jaculi certamina ponit in ulmo,
Corporaque agresti nudat prædura palestra.
Hanc olim veteres vitam coluere Sabini,
Hanc Remus et frater: sic fortis Etruria crevit,
Scilicet et rerum facta est pulcherrima Roma.

-VIRG., Georg. ii. 527.

AM glad that my late going into the country has increased the number of my correspondents, one of whom sends me the following letter:


"THOUGH you are pleased to retire from us so soon into the city, I hope you will not think the affairs of the country altogether unworthy of your inspection for the future. I had the honour of seeing your short face at Sir Roger de Coverley's, and have ever since thought your person and writings both extraordinary. Had you stayed there a few days longer you would have seen a country wake, which you know in most parts of England is the eve-feast of the dedication of our churches. I was last week at one of these assemblies, which was held in a neighbouring parish, where I found their green covered with a promiscuous multitude of all ages and both sexes, who esteem one another more or less the following part of the year according as they distinguish themselves at this time. The whole company were in their holiday clothes, and divided into

several parties, all of them endeavouring to show themselves in those exercises wherein they excelled, and to gain the approbation of the lookers-on.

'I found a ring of cudgel-players, who were breaking one another's heads in order to make some impression on their mistresses' hearts. I observed a lusty young fellow who had the misfortune of a broken pate; but what considerably added to the anguish of the wound, was his overhearing an old man, who shook his head and said, "That he questioned now if Black Kate would marry him these three years." I was diverted from a further observation of these combatants, by a football match which was on the other side of the green; where Tom Short behaved himself so well, that most people seemed to agree it was impossible that he should remain a bachelor till the next wake. Having played many a match myself, I could have looked longer on this sport, had I not observed a country girl who was posted on an eminence at some distance from me, and was making so many odd grimaces, and writhing and distorting her whole body in so strange a manner, as made me very desirous to know the meaning of it. Upon my coming up to her, I found that she was overlooking a ring of wrestlers, and that her sweetheart, a person of small stature, was contending with an huge brawny fellow, who twirled him about, and shook the little man so violently, that by a secret sympathy of hearts it produced all those agitations in the person of his mistress, who I dare say, like Celia in Skakespeare on the same occasion, could have "wished herself invisible to catch the strong fellow by the leg.' The squire of the parish treats the whole company every year with a 1 As you like it,' Act. i. sc. 6.

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