« PředchozíPokračovat »
ness assume a more solemn tone, the demon of melancholy is conjured up to terrify the imagination ; the sympathy of the reader is excited for some offender against the social virtues; and while the unsuspicious bosom swells with a sigh of pity, the fatal taint of depravity infects the heart, under the semblance of commiseration. The general pernicious tendency of novels and romances is thus energetically satirised by a modern poet:
« Howe'er disguis'd th' inflammatory tale,
Doubtless many a virtuous matron and virgin will be surprised at this assertion, and blush to find that what they had considered as a rational amusement, was in reality a most dangerous engine of corruption.
These lighter productions of genius, however, are not wholly engrossed by female writers. Men of distinguished talents have added their names to the list of novelists. Reflecting that novels might be converted into a medium of philosophic speculation, they have introduced scepticism to the reader under the semblance of romance. Indeed, the
generality of our novels abound either with dangerous sophistry, or girlish insignificance; and like several of our modern dramas, are too well calculated to vitiate the public taste.
We are told that Waller employed the greatest pari of a summer in composing and correcting ten verecs! Happy would it be for the readers of the
present day, did our modern poets and prose-writers proceed with equal circumspection.-Novels would then be novel indeed; and paper, which has been nehanced by the quantity required for those voluminous productions, would be purchaseable at a moderate price, and might again be used for the more valuable purpose of disseminating knowledge.
Mediocrity is truly said to be the distinguishing character of our modern poetry, which in general is rather pretty than beautiful. There are few of those extravagant, but sublime Alights of Milton or Shakespeare to be found in the favourite poetry of the day, which
u We cannot blame indeed---but we may sleep."
It is at once amusing and instructive to trace the revolutions of the public taste since the time of Addison. When he wrote, elegant literature became popular, the national taste was refined by his dissertutions, and continued unimpaired till the introducton of sweet-sounding nonsense, by the poetical Della Crusca empirics.
Scarcely had the public mind recovered from its temporary delirium, when the story of Leonora was translated from the German, to the gratification of the judicious lovers of demonology. This exquisite production of the Teutonic muse was acknowledged to be
“ In all the realms of nonsense absolute !"
It gleamed like an ominous meteor of the night, for a moment, then vanished, and was soon forgota ten. Individuals who are capable of writing should pause, and reflect with the poet, when speaking of
“ The sacred implement I now employ
We can boast of living authors whose works will delight and instruct posterity. Far be it from the candid satirist to cherish for a moment that unfounded prejudice, which would exalt the merit of our ancestors by the depreciation of contemporary genius : at the same time it must be acknowledged with regret, that our most estimable are not always our most popular writers. Those authors who stoop to amuse the giddy throng at the expence of their principles, are too often successful; but sterling merit will survive such temporary productions, as the ever-green flourishes in perennial beauty amid the decays of surrounding vegetation.
Let not a passion for fame tempt the man of genius from the path of rectitude into the wild regions of licentious fancy. The task of an author is the most important that can be imagined ;-it is his duty to ameliorate the morals of society: but errors disseminated by his seductive eloquence, may deprave thousands of intelligent beings! Let him reflect, that his most secret studies are open to the eye of an omnipresent Creator, to whom he must be accountable for the use he makes of his talents. Under this impression he will consecrate the energies of his mind to Virtue, convinced that “ it is always a writer's duty to make the world better, and justice is a virtue independent on time and place."
He that refines the public taste is a public benefactor.
OUR literary censors have often been reproached with malignity, especially by unsuccessful authors; but a candid investigation of the charge will convince us, that the reviewers generally condemn books on the same principle that the inspectors of public markets seize unwholesome provisions-lest they should injure the community,
The most valuable work of periodical criticism which this or any other nation has produced, is the Monthly Review, which is evidently conducted on the most independent principles. As moralists, the reviewers merit the esteem of good men; for though in a moment of vivacity they may sanction the general laugh raised by the humourous descriptions of Peter Pindar, yet they are neither the abettors of licentiousness, bigotry, nor infidelity.
From their decisions, sanctioned by taste, it will be dangerous to appeal, as is sometimes done, to the judgment of a people whom they have so long amused and instructed.
The reviewers, however, are only human beings, and as such are not infallible: every man of common sense will doubtless claim the great privilege of reason, and judge for himself; but on comparing his own opinion with theirs, he will often be agreeably surprised at the coincidence.
For nearly half a century this review has given criticisms on new publications as they appeared in succession. Indeed its pages have been accused, and probably with reason, of partiality to certain booksellers ; yet the general tenour of its criticism will endure the scrutinising eye of the investigator. Alarmed by the animadversions of this review on the works of others, many a young author has paused in his progress towards absurdity; and by turning into the path of propriety, smoothed by criticism, he eventually arrived at the temple of Fame, which would have been inaccessible by any other road.