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and welfare, of our fellow subjects; but Dramatic Authors are so circumstanced at present, that this invaluable blessing is withdrawn from them : the Muses are enslaved in a land of liberty, and this at least should excuse the Poets of the age for not rising to nobler heights, till the weight is taken off, which now depresses their strongest efforts. It must be allowed, that in restraining the licentiousness of the theatre our legislature very wisely imitated the good sense of the Athenian magistracy, who by law interdicted the freedoms of the MIDDLE COMEDY; but it is to be wished that they had also imitated the moderation of the Greek law-givers, who, when they resolved to give a check to indecorum, yet left a free and una bounded scope to the New Comedy, which consisted in agreeable and lively representations of manners, passions, virtues, vices, and follies from the general volume of nature, with out giving to any part of the transcript the peculiar marks or fingularities of any individual. Thus Poets were only hindered from being libellers, but were left in full possession of useful and general satire, and all avenues of access to the public were generously thrown open to them. As we have at present the happiness of living in a reign, when Majesty condescends to look with a favourable aspect on the liberal arts, many are sanguine enough to entertain hopes that the Muse may be released from her fetters, and restored to the free exercise of the amiable part of her province. When a bee is deprived of its noxious fting, it may be safely permite ted to rove at large among all the flowers of a garden ; and it will be no inconsiderable addition to the lustre of the crown, if with an AUGUSTAN Reign of equity, moderation, victory, and wisdom, which every Briton promises himself, there be also revived an AUGUSTÁN AGE OF LETTERS.
« Though the foregoing observations may appear digresfive from the main design of this Essay, yet as the subject is important, and took its rise in a great measure from the Writings of Mr. Fielding, to advert a while to the consequences which Aowed to the community from his actions, cannot be deemed altogether impertinent. It is only like going out of the way a little to trace a rivulet in its progress, to mark its windings, to observe whether it bestows fertility on the neighbouring meadows, and then returning to the straight road, to pursue the regular tract of the journey.
“ In the Comedy called Rape upon Rapeor the Coffee-house Politician, we have an admirable draught of a character very common in this country, namely, a man who is fmitten with B b 3
ry fuccoces written by med by some of umour and
an insatiable thirst for news, and concerns himself more about the balance of power than of his books. The folly of these statesmen out of place is there exhibited with a masterly ridicule; and indeed in all the Plays of our Author, however in some respects deficient, there are strokes of humour and half-length paintings, not excelled by some of the ableft artists. The Farces written by Mr. Fielding were almost all of thein very successful, and many of them are still acted every winter with a continuance of approbation. They were generally the production of two cr three mornings, lo great was his facility in writing; and to this day they bear frequent repetition, at least as well as any other pieces of the kind.
« The mock Tragedy of TOM THUMB is replete with as fine parody as perhaps has ever been written ; the LOTTERY, the INTRIGUING CHAMBERMAID, and the VIRGIN UNMASKED, besides the real entertainment they afford, had on their first appearance this additional merit, that they served to make early discoveries of that true comic genius, which was then dawning forth in Mrs. Clive; which has since unfolded itself to a fulness of perfection, and continues to this day to be one of the truest ornaments of the stage.”
As this Essay promises to treat of the Genius, as well as the Life of Henry Fielding, the Writer deemed it not improper to pause hcre for an enquiry into his talents, though we are not arrived at that period of his Life, when they displayed themselves in their full warmth and splendour. And here, says he, it is necessary to caution the Reader not to confine bis idea of what is intended by the word genius, to any one single faculty of the mind; because it is observable that many mistakes have arisen, even among Writers of penetrating judgment, and well versed in critical learning, by haftily attaching themselves to an imperfect notion of this term so comman in literary differtations. That invention is the first great leading talent of a Poet has been a point long since detérmined, because it is principally owing to that faculty of the mind that he is able to create, and be, as it were, 2 MAKER, which is implied in his original title given to him by the consent of Greece. But surely there are many ather powers of the mind as fully cffential to constitute a fine Poet, and therefore, in order to give the true character of any Author's abilities, it should seem necessary to come to a right understanding of what is meant by Genius, and to analyse and arrange its several qualities. This once adjusted, it
might might prove no unpleasing task to examine what are the specific qualities of any Poet in particular; to point out the talents of which he seems to have the freeft command, or in the use of which he seems, as it were, to be left-handed. In this plain fair-dealing way the true and real value of an Author will be easily ascertained ; whereas in the more confined method of investigation, which establishes, at the outset, one giant-quality, and finding the object of the enquiry deficient in that, immediately proceeds to undervalue him in the whole, there seems to be danger of not trying his cause upon a full and equitable hearing. Thus, I think, a late celebrated Poet is likely to suffer an unjust sentence from a gentleman, who has already obliged the Public with the firit volume of an Efray on his Life and Genius *. The.common afurtion which has been in every Half-critic's mouth, namely, that Mr. Pope had little invention, and therefore has but a bad claim to the name of Poet, seems to be unguardedly adopted in the very beginning of that ingenious and entertaining work; and from that principle the con clusion will probably decide against our English Homer. In defence of Mr. Pope's fame, however, our present Biographer stands forth, in opposition to Mr. Warton's opinion. He enters pretty deeply into the enquiry, What Invention is? And, in our opinion, has clearly shown that Pope was (particularly in respect to the Rape of the Lock) as much a Poet, as manifestly a MAKER, as the great Father of the Epic Fable. This disquisition may, at ħrft fight, appear fomewhat digreffive from the Life of Henry Fielding; but it was not an unnecessary excursion. It was expedient, as Mr. Murphy himself observes, for the true delineation of an eminent Writer's character, to remove difficulties out of the way, and to explain the terms of art used by Critics.' And thus having shewn the different provinces of Invention, we arrive at a juster idea of what is meant when we talk of an Author's Genius.
* See 'Review, Vol. XIV. p. 528, and Vol. XV. p. 52; where the Reader will find an ample account of this elegant and truly crie tical performance.
[This Article will be concluded in our next.] ..
: "ACCOUNT ACCOUNT OF FOREIGN BOOK S.
De la Nature: Or, A Philosophical Effay on the System of Nature. Concluded,
O UR Author, in the third part of this work, wherein,
as was before observed, he treats of Moral Instinct, attributes to our age and nation the honour of this important discovery. “ The Ancients (says he) appeared to be ignorant of á Moral Sense, to which ignorance I readily attribute the changes so frequently introduced in their science of man-, ners. Cicero has indeed asserted an innate, grateful, disinterested probity in the heart of man. The discovery of a Morad Instinct may nevertheless be justly attributed to the Moderns, from the great lights which have been thrown on this subject by two Philosophers of the present age.” These Philosophers are Hutcheson and Hume, whose theory he adopts and endeavours to confirm and elucidate, by a method of reasoning perhaps too mechanical for the subject.
The Author of our Being, says he, hath implanted in us an innate disposition, to approve certain actions and qualities, and to blame others; whence we are led to perceive justice and injustice by a natural impulse, in the same manner as the palate perceives the difference of tastes, totally independent of reflection. The beauty and deformity of moral actions, thus, are as perceptible as the beauty and deformity of faces; their distinctions, founded on a natural sensibility of the same kind, being intimated to us in the same manner. Hence, comparing the moral sense, in its nature and operations, to the other senses of hearing, seeing, &c, he proceeds to enquire into the existence and nature of its organ. In this enquiry, however, having proved from analogy the use and necessity of such an organ, he is reduced to confess the want of experiments to lead us to the discovery of it. But on the supposition of there existing a system of nerves, which, leading from the fenforium, extend themselves as far as some certain points of the internal frame of the brain, that com municate with other analogous external filaments; he conceives the moral object may act upon those nerves, in such a manner as to excite in the soul the perception of its qualities of Good and Evil.
« If we examine into the mechanism of the other sensafions, wc thall trace (he fays) clearly the type of this. Ma
terial terial objects carry with them their colour, savour, &c. or rather that which excites such sensations in the soul. Thus every action or quality carries with it its moral tincture, or at least that which excites a sense of its morality in the soul. When an object is painted on the retina, it is always accompanied by its colour and figure; when a sound strikes the ear, it is ever of some particular tone, grave or acute : thus when I am an eye-witness of an action, I see it with all its moral qualities; if I hear it related, the words convey through my ear, at the same time, the moral character of the action they express. It is true, the moral Good or Evil of actions is not visible to the eye, nor palpable to the touch; nor do I pretend they are to be touched or felt by means of the organs of vision or feeling: but this does not hinder them from being perceived by their proper organs. Sound is neither visible nor tangible ; but is it therefore less perceptible to the soul by means of the auditory nerves ? Thus, though moral objects are not perceived as if painted on the eye, nor as impinging on the olfactory nerves, yet they become sensible by the impression they make on the organs of their particular sense, called for that reason the moral sense. What leaves this operation in some obfcurity is, that we cannot particularly determine what those organs are. Two things, however, respecting this subject, are certain, viz. that the morality of actions and characters is something sensible, and that there is no sensation excited in the soul, but by fome mechanism corresponding to it in the organical system of the body."
There is yet another obscurity to which this Writer does not at all attend; and that lies in what relates to the moral qualities which, he supposes, every action or character, when seen or heard, carry along with them, to this moral sense. If this sense be, as he calls it in some places, an Instinct, whose discernment is prompt, easy, and infallible, something that presupposes no idea, no knowlege, no reasoning, it must certainly be conceived to discover, at first fight, the Moral Good or Evil of every such action or character. But, what is generally understood by the Moral Good or Evil of an action, and Moral Virtue or Vice in the agent, are distinct things. Ac'tions of generosity, humanity and the like, universally called fo, and confessedly good, may be performed from motives neither generous nor humane; is it then the virtuous quality of the action, or the agent, that is discovered by this Instinct, or conveyed with such action, to this Moral Sense ? As our Author does not pretend that conscience is any thing more