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experience, doth not direct penetration. Life, being short, will not give us time to gather a necessary stock of experience ourselves; for which reason we must borrow from our ances. tors, as they borrowed from those who went before them. By their writings we can trace the several arts back to their originals, and learn in an hour, what by tedious and gradual deductions was the work perhaps of several ages. A natural critic will readily own that he formed his judgment by degrees, that he grew wiser and wiser by experience; one who joins art to nature doth the same thing, but doth it more effectually; he throws himself back into ancient time, lives a thousand years of criticism in a month, and, without stirring out of his closet, is a Greek, a Roman, a Frenchman, and a Briton.
A moderate search into antiquity will teach us, that nature is not cramped, but assisted, by artful authors; who complain of such restraint, are like clowns under the discipline of the dancing-master; whereas the well-bred know, that a graceful motion is the most easy, and art is only the unlearning of what is unnatural, In ancient Greece and Rome, rhetoric was there, fore the foundation of their polite learning. Their children were instructed early in the rules of method, and the propriety of thought and style. Having imbibed in their youth these unerring maxims of good sense, we find their most trifling compositions at least uni. forms and whether they write in the dramatic, lyric, or epic manner, they seldom fail to keep up to the several characteristics which distinguish those various kinds from one anos ther. An heroic poet assumes a character manifestly distinct from a writer of pastoral; à complainer in elegy is under a different inspi. ration from that which breaks out in an ode. The same man, under these various denomi. nations, is in effect so many persons.
If he speaks, if he thinks, in one kind as he doth in the others, he confounds two or three charac. ters. It is not the muse, the lover, the swain, , or the god, but Bavius at hard labour in his study.
A nice and subtle judgment in poetry hath, in all polite nations, ancient and modern, been happily compared to the delicacy of taste. Now a taste cannot be fine, if it only distinguishes sweet from bitter, or pleasant from nauseous. No ģentleman that drinks his bottle, pretends to a tolerable palate, unless he can distinguish the wines of France from those of Portugal; and if he is perfectly nice, he will tell you, with his eyes shut, what province, what mountain,
supplied the liquor. Every man born healthful is indeed naturally capable of distinguishing one juice from another ; but if he hath debauched himself with sophisticated mixtures, it is odds that he will prefer the bad to the good ; that he will swallow with transport what was squeezed from the sloe, and make faces at the Burgundian grape.
Since the pleasure arising from the politę arts is infinitely beyond the most refined sensations, he cannot be esteemed an useless man to his country, who endeavours to direct man. kind in the choice of the most exquisite and elegant satisfaction. It is yet further an en: couragement to men of fine spirits and beautiful imaginations, to have their works exhibited advantageously to the world, and rescued from ignorance or envy. There is not, perhaps, so much vigour of mind and vivacity required in a critick as in an author; but delicacy alonę can discover delicacy: An ordinary spectator is able to describe the fine mouth of Cleora ; the full eye, the open forehead of Chloe; but who shall explain why Amoret is agreeable ? what that air is, which is not to be accounted for in any one or other feature, but results from the union of all? Who can tell what is the cons texture and shape of those particles which produce an idea of a grateful taste to the palate ? and what beau knows the philosophy of the perfume which emboldens him to appear among the ladies? Much more difficult is the task to explain the perplexed delicacies of poetry, to present its beauties to the eye, to make the majesty of it familiar, and account for its glorious confusion.
ENGLISHMAN, No. 7, Oct. 20, 1713.
Of the few works of Steele which have not lately been republished, I believe The ENGLISHMAN to be one. It contains, however, notwithstanding its political origin, a large portion of miscellaneous matter, of merit little, if at all, inferior to his contributions in the Guardian. I have, therefore, thought that it would not be unacceptable to my readers, should I present them with a couple of specimens from this production. As the other minor periodical works of Steele and Addison have within these few years revisited the Press, I have, on that account, førborne to select from their pages.
Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, sagas,
THERE seem to be a certain set of unhappy prepossessions peculiar to the lower part of mankind, which being drawn in with their milk, and conveyed to them sooner than their letters, never forsake them even till they bend upon the stick, and pore through spectacles. Such are the notions of fairies, demons, spectres, the powers
of natural magick, and the terrors of witchcraft ; all which they entertain with a positive confidence of their being true; and what is worse, make them a part of religion itself ; so that a wise man would find it a matter of no small difficulty to cut off this branch of superstition from their minds, without doing an in. jury to the stock they graft it upon, and removing the best principle of happiness at the same time with the worst and most fruitful of miseries. Neither can we say that this evil is