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“ the cement, the magnetism, what they “ will call it, the invisible tie of that union,
whereby matter and an incorporeal mind,
things that have no fimilitude or alliance “ to each other, can so sympathize by a mu“ tual league of motion and sensation. No;
they will not pretend to that, for they can “ frame no conceptions of it: They are “ sure there is such an union from the
ope“ rations and effects, but the cause and the “ manner of it are too subtle and secret to « be discovered by the eye of reason : 'tis
mystery, 'tis divine magic, 'tis natural " miracle."
Defimemus jam fum, nihil eft quod dicat mihi.
of the world men have been in habits of praising the time past at the expence
of the time present. This was done even in the Augustan ära, and in that witty and celebrated period the laudator tempo
ris afli must have been either a very splenetic, or a very silly character.
Our present grumblers may perhaps be better warranted; but, though there may not be the same injustice in their cavilling complaints, there is more than equal impolicy in them; for if by discouraging their contemporaries they mean to mend them, they take a very certain method of counteracting their own designs; and if they have any other meaning, it must be something worse than impolitic, and they have more to answer for than a mere mistake.
Who but the meanest of mankind would wish to damp the spirit and degrade the genius of the country he belongs to ? Is any man lowered by the dignity of his own nation, by the talents of his contemporaries? Who would not prefer to live in an enlightened and a rising age, rather than in a dark and declining one? It is natural to take a pride in the excellence of our free constitution, in the virtues of our Sovereign ; is it not as natural to fympathize in the prosperity of our arts and sciences, in the reputation of our countrymen ? But
these splenetic Dampers are for ever fighing over the decline of wit, the decline of
genius, the decline of literature, when if there is any one thing that has declined rather than another, it is the wretched state of criticism, so far as they have to do with it.
As I was passing from the city the other day I turned into a coffee-house, and took my seat at a table, next to which some gentlemen had assembled, and were conversing over their coffee. A dispute was carried on between a little prattling volatile fellow and an old gentleman of a fullen, morose aspect, who in a dictatorial tone of voice was declaiming against the times, and treating them and their puisny advocate with more contempt than either one or the other seemed to deserve: Still the little fellow, who had abundance of zeal and no want of words, kept battling with might and main for the world as it goes against the world as it had gone by, and I could perceive he had an interest with the junior part of his hearers, whilst the fullen orator was no less popular amongst the elders of the party : The little fellow, who seemed to think it no good reason why any work should be de
cried only because the author of it was living, had been descanting upon the merit of a recent publication, and had now shifted his ground from the sciences to the fine arts, where he seemed to have taken a strong poft and stood refolutely to it; his opponent, who was not a man to be tickled out of his spleen by a few fine dafhes of arts merely elegant, did not relish this kind of fkirmishing argument, and tauntingly cried out“ What tell you me of a parcel of gew-gaw « artists, fit only to pick the pockets of a
dissipated trifling age? You talk of your
painters and pourtrait-mongers, what use “ are they of? Where are the philosophers " and the poets, whofe countenances might " interest pofterity to fit to them? Will
they paint me a Bacon, a Newton or a « Locke? I defy them: There are not “ three heads upon living shoulders in the
kingdom, worth the oil that would be “ wafted upon them. Will they or you “ find me a Shakespear, a Milton, a Dryden,
a Pope, an Addison? You cannot find a
limb, a feature, or even the shadow of the « least of them : These were men warthy to “ be recorded; poets, who reached the very
“ topmost fummits of Parnafsus ; our mo“ derns are but pismires crawling at its “ lowest root.”—This lofty defiance brought our little advocate to a nonplus; the moment was embarrassing; the champion of time past was echoed by his party with a cry of—“ No, No! there are no such men 1“ as these now living.”—“I believe not,' he replied, “I believe not : I could give
you a score of names more, but these are enough : Honest Tom Durfey would be more than a match for any poetaster now breathing."
In this stile he went on crowing and clapping his wings over a beaten cock, for our poor little champion seemed dead upon the pit : He muttered something between his teeth, as if struggling to pronounce some name that stuck in his throat; but either there was in fact no contemporary, whom he thought it safe to oppose to these Goliahs in the lists, or none were present to his mind at this moment.
Alas ! thought I, your cause, my beloved contemporaries, is desperate: Va Vietis ! You are but dust in the scale, while this Brennus directs the beam. All that I have