« السابقةمتابعة »
not be said, that they have a particular way of commu: nicating their knowledge to one another; for otherwise how could they know, one or two hours after, that there was some corn in that place? It was quickly exhausted ; and I put in more, but in a small quantity; ,to know the true extent of their appetite or prodigious avarice ; for I make no doubt but they lay up provisions against the winter: we read it in the Holy Scriptures ; a thousand experiments teach us the same; and I do not believe any experiment has been made that shews the contrary.
ON COLLECTIONS OF THE BRITISH POETS,
ADDRÉSSED' TO THOMAS PARK, ESQ. F. S. A.
There are few studies so fascinating to their votaries as that of Poetry, and in the present day there are few studies which are attended with more expence; for though the works of Warton, Goldsmith, Polwhele, and a number of our best writers made their first appearance in humble forni, yet now, not only the more exalted efforts of genius, but the ephemeral effusions of every scribbler are ushered into the world with all the splendour of type, paper, and embellishment. But as it is not absolutely necessary that to form a good library we should add every new production, (probably the reverse) I shall avoid expatiating on so obvious a remark, and pass to the more immediate subject of my essay; addressing my present humble observations to you, Sir, as the Editor of the elegant edition now publishing.
The little judgment exhibited in making collections of the British Poets seems at first thought astonishing; yet as, excepting the incorrect edition of Dr. Anderson, the selection has chiefly been left to the Booksellers alone, we perhaps ought not to look for that discrimination which is only to be produced by the united efforts of taste and genius.
Dr. Johnson's edition might perhaps be deemed an exception, but he very politickly disavows having had any power in the selection, though at the same time he informs us that we are to impute whatever pleasure or weariness we may find in the perusal of Blackmore, Watts,
Pomfret, and Yalden to him, being inserted by his recommendation*; and if these are his choice we certainly need not regret that his taste in selection was so much circumscribed.
Knox, speaking of this edition, observes that the late collection of Poets has restored to temporary life many a sickly and dying Poet, who was hastening to his proper place, the tomb of oblivion. Why was any more paper wasted on Dorset, Halifax, Stepney, Walsh and Blackmore? How can a work pretend to the comprehensive title of the body of British Poetry, in which the works of Spenser and Shakspeare are omitted to make room for such writers as King, or Ambrose Phillips ?
Though we may not have a very exalted idea of this writer's poetical taste when he compares the genius of Tickel 1 for dignity, solemnity, and pathos, to that of Collins !!! Yet we cannot but acknowledge the above observation to be just, and to the names enumerated by him may be added those of Sprat, Yalden, Duke, Broome, Hughes, Roscommon, Rochester, and Fenton.
Several of these owed their temporary fame to title and power, but those charms have now lost their force, and, as Gray remarks, a dead lord ranks but with commoners. But though in their present state they are unworthy a place in any collection of British Poetry, many of them were undoubtedly possessed of genius which, if properly exerted, might have produced compositious worthy of being transmitted to posterity; aud two or three elegant volumes might be formed from their works as “selections from the inferior British Poets,” which would not only reduce the general collection in a great degree “ summation devoutly to be wished," but would also afford a more refined amusement to the readers of it.
There are few men who can have a more exalted idea of the genius of Beattie than myself, yet I think the judgment and taste evinced in the selection of his Poems are equally deserving of our admiration. Had every writer done so, how much would the bulk of English Poetry have been reduced, and how much nobler a monu
* Vide « Life of Watts"
Ibid. No. 175, vol. 3, p. 297.
ment of national glory it would have formed ! and though many of the pieces he disapproved would do honour to bis memory, yet after his rejection of them it would undoubtedly be improper to add them to his works.
You will probably deem me presumptious when I censare your insertion of the whole of Swift's works in the present collection : but I certainly think the prediction of Dryden (“ Cousin Swift, you will never be a Poet,”) .was verified : and, he should rank only amongst those authors from whoin, a selection should be made, more especially as he generally wrote on subjects of temporary interest, and frequently with gross indecency,
I know this method of “garbling" an author's works after his decease, has been censured by soine of our greatest critics,* but do not think with justice, Because an author (whose whole works do not amount to more than 100 or 150 pages,) has thought proper to mingle many inferior amongst his superior productions, are we, with blind and undiscriminating reverence, to hand them down from generation to generation “ to the last syllable of recorded time?" No, Sir, I trust your taste will point out the necessity of a reform; and with a firm hope that my expectations will not be disappointed,
I remain &c. &c.
W. M. T. Liverpool, 14th October, 1807.
The "Apologist for the Chalk manner of Engraving," having closed his Apology, you are now in possession of all that he had to offer on the subject, and you have seen
# Johnson's life of Thomson, &c.
that it alunost entirely consists of such abuse of Mr. Landseer's professional character as the law would denominate a libel. The comparison which you were taught to expect between Line and Chalk engraving, is not even attempted, nor is a single sentence offered of Apology for the latter. Your Apologist has written a kind of Irish apology which closes before it begins.
Did I say that not a single sentence was offered? Pero haps I am mistaken. Perhaps the following sentence may be meant as an Apology. “I declare my opinion to be that the Clytie, Circumcision, Silence, Diploma, the Wolfe and La Hogue, are so finely engraved that I should be sorry to see the attempt to execute them in any other mode of engraving whatever." If this be his Apology, all that need be said is, that it is a very sorry Apology, and that his dotting brethren (I for one, though I do not boast of it) will not be very much obliged to him. What he has chosen to call Mr. Landseer's attack, amounts to much less than thiş concession.
He denies that my story is true of Dr. Garth, but admits that it is true of Dr. Ratcliff. Since he admits it to be true, it is enough for my argument: but I wish your compositor had not, in that part of my former Letter, where I relate this anecdote, inserted “personally," for "professionally administered," since I do not suppose any thing of the former kind was ever intended, much as it is, in my opinion, deserved : again, in the third 'line of p. 94, he has omitted the word deny, where the sense is in complete without it: I wrote, “which the writer before îne does not, and I suppose cannot, deny."
You seemed to think that I had wielded too rough weapon against your correspondent with the “ Tomahawk;” The insensibility of his second Letter, has probably satisfied you that I have been cutting a Block with a razor, when a hatchet or a hand-saw ought rather to have been employed, He even does not see the necessary reaction of his own principles, Hard as I haye been, he does not feel the viscinertiæ of the blow he gives. He appears not to entertain the faintest idea that if it be logically indispensable for one man to engrave well in order to prove the truth of his writings, or the justness of his remarks on the Engravings of others, it must also be iņ, dispensable for another, and that the public was therefore naturally led to expect some great name at the close of ao Apology which set out upon these pripciples ; or at
least, that ancient Apology for a great name, a line, which while it vied with those of Protogenes and A pelles, should more delicately inform us of the superior talent of him who had descended to attack Mr. Landseer on this ground.
Perhaps however, he has exhibited this credential, so necessary in his former estimation to the credibility of Truth (but which his modesty might prevent him from subscribing at the close of his Apology) in some other part of your Cabinet, and either the portrait of Nell Gwynn, or that of Mr. Cooke which stands before it, and which it would be equally unnecessary and improper in me to censure or to praise, may be meant to humble Mr. Landseer's pretensions; to bring him to his level,” that this Chalk engraving champion, " may be more able to cope with him,” knowing, as he informs us he does, “ how small a portion of mankind think for themselves, and how many of them rest their opinions on the authority of others."
It is rather an aukward dilemma for so stout a Champion to be driven to, but, if he does not shew by his Engraving, how much better he is qualified to appreciate Mr. Landseer's talents as a Lecturer than the managers of the Royal Institution, or abilities as an Engraver than the Academicians of the Royal Academy, his argument will, upon his own principles, be wanting in its main support. It is incumbent upon him, therefore, either to avow his Engravings, or disavow and abandon his former sentiments.
It is perhaps my own fault, but you do not seem to have clearly understood the drift of my reasoning, in my former address. My intention was, to affirm, at first, what I afterwards supported by argument. I could not expect you, nor your readers, to believe this would-be-thought Apologist, to be “a bad man," on the mere ipse dixit of an anonymous correspondent. Neither have I yet asserted so much ; but, since these two words have been echoed and re-echoed, let us coolly examine into the use which I originally made of them.
"That bad men in their reasonings frequently overlook very important points," and that, “ conscious of being weak in Truth, a bad man foolishly flatters himself that he shall prove strong in Falsehood," are my positions, (see pp. 92. 95.) and I believe you will allow, that they are positions of a very general nature, and such as any