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readers, who are apt to believe they are very deep, because they are unintelligible. The ancient critics are full of the praises of their contemporaries; they discover beauties which escaped the observation of the vulgar, and very often find out reasons for palliating and excusing such little slips and oversights as were committed in the writings of eminent authors. On the contrary, most of the smatterers in criticism who appear among us,
make it their business to vilify and depreciate every new production that gains applause, to defcry imaginary blemishes, and to prove by far-fetched arguments, that what pass for beauties in
any celebrated piece are faults and errors. In short, the writings of these critics compared with those of the ancients, are like the works of the sophists compared with those of the old philofophers.
Envy and cavil are the natural fruits of laziness and ignorance; which was probably the rcafon, that in the Heathen mythology Nomus is said to be the son of Nox and Somnus, of darkness and sleep. Idle men, who have not been at the pains to accomplish or distinguish themselves, are very apt to detract from others; as ignorant men are very subject to decry those beauties in a celebrated work which they have not eyes to discover. Many of our sons of Nomus, who dignify themselves by the name of critics, are the genuine descendants of those two illustrious ancestors. They are often led into those numerous absurdities, in which they daily instruct the people, by not considering that, ist, There is sometimes a greater judgment shewn in deviating from the rules of art, than in adhering to them; and, 2dly, That there is more. beauty in the works of a great genius who is ignorant of all the rules of art, than in the works of a little genius, who not only knows, but scrupulourly observes them.
FIRST, lle may often take notice of men who are perfectly acquainted with all the rules of good writing, and notwithstanding chuse to depart from them on extraordinary occasions. I could give instances out of all the tragic writers of antiquity who have shown their judgment in this particular, and purposely receded from an established rule of the drama, when it has made way
for a much higher beauty than the observation of such a rule would have been. Those who have surveyed the noblest
pieces of architecture and statuary both ancient and modern, know very well that there are frequent deviations from art in the works of the greatest masters, which have produced a much nobler effect than a more accurate and . exact way of proceeding could have done. This often arises from what the Italians call the gusto gravide in these arts, which is what we call the sublime in writing.
In the next place, our critics do not seem fentible that there is more beauty in the works of a great genius who is ignorant of the rules of art, than in those of a little genius who knows and obferves them. It is of these men of genius that Terence speaks, in opposition to the little artificial cavillers of his time;
Quorum amulari exoptat negligentiam
Whofe negligence le would rather imitate, then those
mens obfcure diligence.
A CRITIC may have the same confolation in the ill success of his play, as Dr South tells lis a l-layfician hàs at the death of a patient, that he was lilled fecundum artein. Our inimitable Shakespear is a stumbling-block to the whole tribe of these rigid critics. Who would not rather read one of his plays, where there is not a single rule of the stage observed, than any production of a mo. dern critic, where there is not one of them violated ! Shakespear was indeed born with all the feeds of
poetry, and may be compared to the stone in Pyrrhus's ring, which, as Pliny tells us, had the figure of Apollo and the nine mufes in the veins of it, produced by the spontaneous hand of nature, without
any help from art.
Monday, September 13.
Quale per incertam lunam fub luce maligna
Virg. Æn. 6. v. 270.
Thus wander travellers in woods by right,
Y dreaming correspondent, Mr Shadore', has sent
me a second letter, with several curious observations on drcams in general, and the method to render sleep improving: an extract of his letter will not, I presume, be disagreeable to my readers.
INCE we have so little time to spare, that none of
it may be lost, I see no reason why we should neg·lect to examine those imaginary scenes we are presented • with in sicep, only because they have less reality in
them than our waking meditations. A traveller would • bring his judgment in question, who should despise the • directions of his map for want of real roads in it, beo cause here stands a dot instead of a town, or a cipher • instead of a city; and it must be a long day's journey to • travel through two or three inches. Fancy in dreams
gives us much such another landskip of life as that does • of countries, and though its appearances may seem
strangely jumbled together, we may often observe such 'traces and footsteps of noble thoughts, as, if carefully
pursued, might lead us into a proper path of action. • There is so much rapture and ecstasy in our fancied • bliss, and something so dismal and shocking in our fan* cied misery, that though the inactivity of the body has
given occasion for calling sleep the image of death, the • briskness of the fancy affords us a strong intimation of something within us that can never die.
' I HAVE wondered, that Alexander the Great, who came into the world sufficiently dreamed of by his parents, and had himself a tolerable knack at dreaming,
should often say, 'that seep was one thing which made « him sensible he was mortal.' I who have not such fields • of action in the day-time to divert my attention from * this matter, plainly perceire, that in those operations * of the mind, while the body is at rest, there is a cer* tain vastness of conception very suitable to the capacity, • and demonstrative of the force of that divine part in our composition which will last for ever. Neither do L
much doubt but had we a true account of the wonders • the hero last mentioned performed in his sleep, his con· quering this little globe would hardly be worth men
tioning. I may affirm, without vanity, that when I compare several actions in Quintus Curtius with some • others in my own noctuary, I appear the greater hero • of the two.'
I SHALL close this subject with observing, that while we are awake we are at liberty to fix our thoughts on what we please, but in sleep we have not the command of them. The ideas which strike the fancy arise in us without our choice, either from the occurrences of the day past, the temper we lie down in, or it may be the direction of some superior being.
It is certain the imagination may be so differently affected in sleep, that our actions of the day might be either rewarded or punithed with a little age of happiness or mia fery. St Austin was of opinion, that if in paradise there was the fame viciffitude of sleeping and waking as in the present world, the dreams of its inhabitants would be very happy.
And so far at present our dreams are in our power, that they are generally conformable to our waking thoughts, so that it is not impossible to convey ourselves to a consort of music, the conversation of distant friends, any
other entertainment which has been before lodged in the mind.
My readers, by applying these hints, will find the necessity of making a good day of it, if they heartily wish. themselves a good night.
I have often considered Marcia's prayer, and L1stius's account of Cato, in this light.
Marc. O ge immortal powers, that guard the juft,
Luc. Sweet are the numbers of the virtuous man!
Mr Shadow acquaints me in a postscript, that he has mo manner of title to the vision which succeeded his first letter; but adds, that as the gentleman who wrote it dreams very sensibly, he shall be glad to meet him some night or other, under the great elm-tree, by which Virgil has given us a fine metaphorical image of neep, in order to turn over a few of the leaves together, and oblige the public with an account of the dreams that lie under them.
Wednesday, September 15.
Abfentem qui rodit ainicum,
Hor. Sat. 4. 1. 1. v. 81.
sure beware of him. Creech, ERE all the vexations of life put together, we should find that a great part of them proceed from