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PREPARATION FOR THE SECOND PART.
And so much at present for critics and learned editors. So much also for the origin and progress of criticism ; which has been divided into three species, the philosophical, the historical, and the corrective: the philosophical, treating of the principles and primary causes of good writing in general; the historical, being conversant in particular facts, customs, phrases, &c.; and the corrective, being divided into the authoritative and the conjectural; the authoritative, depending on the collation of manuscripts and the best editions; the conjectural, on the sagacity and erudition of editors.9
As the first part of these inquiries ends here, we are now to proceed to the second part, a specimen of the doctrines and principles of criticism, as they are illustrated in the writings of the most distinguished authors.
WE are, in the following part of this work, to give a specimen of those doctrines, which having been slightly touched in the first part, we are now to illustrate more amply, by referring to examples, as well ancient as modern.
It has been already hinted, that among writers the epic came first ; * it has been hinted likewise, that nothing excellent in a literary way happens merely by chance."
Mention also has been made of numerous composition, and the force of it suggested, though little said further.
To this we may add the theory of whole and parts,d so essential to the very being of a legitimate composition ; and the theory also of sentiment and manners, both of which naturally belong to every whole, called dramatic.
Nor can we on this occasion omit a few speculations on the
For the first species of criticism, see they might too much interrupt the conp. 388. For the second species, see p. 390. tinuity of the text, they have been joined For the third species, see p. 396, to the end with other pieces, in the forming of an Apof the chapter following, p. 398. There are a few other notes besides the a Page 388.
b Page 389. preceding ; but as some of them were long,
d Ibid. and it was apprehended for that reason that e Ibid.
fable or action ; speculations necessarily connected with every drama, and which we shall illustrate from tragedy, its most striking species.
And here, if it should be objected that we refer to English authors, the connection should be remembered between good authors of every country, as far as they all draw from the same sources, the sources I mean of nature and of truth. A like apology may be made for inquiries concerning the English tongue, and how far it may be made susceptible of classic decoration. All languages are in some degree congenial, and, both in their matter and their form, are founded upon the same principles.
What is here said, will, we hope, sufficiently justify the following detail; a detail naturally arising from the former part of the plan, by being founded upon expressions, not sufficiently there developed.
First, therefore, for the first : that the epic poets led the way; and that nothing excellent, in a literary view, happens merely by chance.
THAT THE EPIC WRITERS CAME FIRST, AND THAT NOTHING EXCELLENT
IN LITERARY PERFORMANCES HAPPENS MERELY FROM CHANCE-
It appears, that not only in Greece, but in other countries, more barbarous, the first writings were in metre, and of an epic cast, recording wars, battles, heroes, ghosts; the marvellous always, and often the incredible. Men seemed to have thought, that the higher they soared, the more important they should appear; and that the common life which they then lived, was a thing too contemptible to merit imitation.
Hence it followed, that it was not till this common life was rendered respectable by more refined and polished manners, that men thought it might be copied, so as to gain them applause.
Even in Greece itself, tragedy had attained its maturity many years before comedy," as may be seen by comparing the age of Sophocles and Euripides with that of Philemon and Menander.
For ourselves, we shall find most of our first poets prone to a turgid bombast, and most of our first prosaic writers to a pedantic stiffness, which rude styles gradually improved, but | Hermes, p. 217.
b Aristot. Poet. c. 4. p. 227. edit. Sylb. 8 Temple's Works, vol. i. p. 239. fol. edit. Also Characteristics, vol. i. p. 244,
reached not a classical purity sooner than Tillotson, Dryden, Addison, Shaftesbury, Prior, Pope, Atterbury, &c. &c.
As to what is asserted soon after upon the efficacy of causes in works of ingenuity and art, we think in general, that the effect must always be proportioned to its cause. It is hard for him, who reasons attentively, to refer to chance any superlative production.
Effects indeed strike us, when we are not thinking about the cause; yet may we be assured, if we reflect, that a cause there is, and that too a cause intelligent and rational. Nothing would perhaps more contribute to give us a taste truly critical, than on every occasion to investigate this cause; and to ask ourselves, upon feeling any uncommon effect, why we are thus delighted; why thus affected; why melted into pity; why made to shudder with horror ?
Till this why is well answered, all is darkness, and our admiration, like that of the vulgar, founded upon ignorance.
To explain by a few examples, that are known to all, and for that reason here alleged, because they are known.
I am struck with the night-scene in Virgil's fourth Æneid: The universal silence throughout the globe; the sweet rest of its various inhabitants, soothing their cares and forgetting their labours; the unhappy Dido alone restless—restless, and agitated with impetuous passions."
I am affected with the story of Regulus, as painted by West : The crowd of anxious friends, persuading him not to return; his wife, fainting through sensibility and fear; persons, the least connected, appearing to feel for him; yet himself unmoved, inexorable and stern.'
Without referring to these deeply tragic scenes, what charms has music, when a masterly band pass unexpectedly from loud to soft, or from soft to loud ? When the system changes from the greater third to the less; or reciprocally, when it changes from this last to the former?
All these effects have a similar and well-known cause: the amazing force which contraries acquire, either by juxta-position, or by quick succession.m
But we ask still further, why have contraries this force? We answer, because of all things which differ, none differ so widely. Sound differs from darkness, but not so much as from silence ; darkness differs from sound, but not so much as from light. In the same intense manner differ repose and restlessness; felicity and misery; dubious solicitude and firm resolution; the epic and the comic; the sublime and the ludicrous."
| Philosoph. Arrang. p. 340, and 376. γάρ μαλλυν τα εναντία γνωρίζεται: “ that * Æn. iv. 522, &c.
contraries are better known, when set | Horat. Carm. I. iii. od. 5.
beside each other.” Arist. Rhetor. lib. iii. m This truth is not only obvious, but p. 120, and p. 152. edit. Sylb. The same ancient. Aristotle says, ñapárında td author often makes use of this truth in εναντία μάλιστα φαίνεσθαι : “ that con- other places; which truth, simple as it traries, when set beside each other, make seems, is the source of many capital beauties the strongest appearance." Tlapárnia in all the fine arts.
And, why differ contraries thus widely? Because while attributes, simply different, may coexist in the same subject, contraries cannot coexist, but always destroy one another." Thus the same marble may be both white and hard; but the same marble cannot be both white and black. And hence it follows, that as their difference is more intense, so is our recognition of them more vivid, and our impressions more permanent.
This effect of contraries is evident even in objects of sense, where imagination and intellect are not in the least concerned. When we pass (for example) from a hot-house, we feel the common air more intensely cool; when we pass from a dark cavern, we feel the common light of the day more intensely glaring.
But to proceed to instances of another and a very different kind.
Few scenes are more affecting than the taking of Troy, as described in the second Æneid : The apparition of Hector to Æneas, when asleep, announcing to him the commencement of that direful event—the distant lamentations, heard by Æneas, as he awakes—his ascending the house-top, and viewing the city in flames—his friend Pentheus, escaped from destruction, and relating to him their wretched and deplorable condition-Æneas, with a few friends, rushing into the thickest danger—their various success, till they all perish, but himself and two more the affecting scenes of horror and pity at Priam's palace—a son, slain at his father's feet; and the immediate massacre of the old monarch himself—Æneas, on seeing this, inspired with the memory of his own father-his resolving to return home, having now lost all his companions—his seeing Helen in the way, and his design to despatch so wicked a woman-Venus interposing,
" From these instances we perceive the less, there must be also a certain difference, meaning of those descriptions of contraries, which is most, and this I call contrariety.” that they are tà aliotov dlapépovta Tô Metaph. p. 162. edit. Sylb. εν τω αυτώ γένει- εν τω αυτώ δεκτικώ- Ammonius, commenting the doctrine Tô Únd Thiv åvthv dúvapiv : "things which of contraries, (as set forth in Aristotle's differ most widely, among things existing Categories,) informs us, that they not only in the same genus, in the same recipient, do not imply one another, (as a son necescomprehended under the same power or sarily implies a father,) but that they even faculty.”. Arist. Metaph. A. i. p. 82. edit. destroy one another, so that, where one is Sylb. Cicero, in his Topics, translates the present, the other cannot remain:" ou first description, Quce in eodem genere μόνον ού συνεισφέρει άλληλα, αλλά και plurimum differunt. Sect. 70.
φθείρει του γαρ ενός πάροντος, ουχ υποAristotle reasons as follows: 'Etel de mével td étepov. Ammon. in Categ. p. 147. διαφέρειν ενδέχεται αλλήλων τα διαφέ- edit. Venet. The Stagirite himself deροντα πλείον και έλαττον, εστί τις και scribes them in the same manner: τα μη μεγίστη διαφορά, και ταύτην λέγω έναν- δυνατά άμα το αυτό παρεϊναι : « things Tiwow: “It being admitted that things that cannot be present at once in the same differing from one another, differ more and subject.” Metaph. A. p. 82. edit. Sylb.
and shewing him (by removing the film from his eyes) the most sublime, though most direful, of all sights, the gods themselves busied in Troy's destruction; Neptune at one employ, Juno at another, Pallas at a third-It is not Helen (says Venus) but the gods, that are the authors of your country's ruin-it is their inclemency, &c.
Not less solemn and awful, though less leading to pity, is the commencement of the sixth Æneid: The Sibyl's cavern-her frantic gestures, and prophecy—the request of Åneas to descend to the shades—her answer, and information about the loss of one of his friends—the fate of poor Misenus—his funeral—the golden bough discovered, a preparatory circumstance for the descentthe sacrifice—the ground bellowing under their feet—the woods in motion—the dogs of Hecate howling—the actual descent in all its particulars of the marvellous and
the terrible. If we pass from an ancient author to a modern, what scene more striking than the first scene in Hamlet? The solemnity of the time, à severe and pinching night—the solemnity of the place, a platform for a guard—the guards themselves; and their apposite discourse-yonder star in such a position; the bell then beating one—when description is exhausted, the thing itself appears, the ghost enters.
From Shakspeare, the transition to Milton is natural. What pieces have ever met a more just, as well as universal applause, than his L'Allegro and Il Penseroso ? The first, a combination of every incident that is lively and cheerful; the second, of every incident that is melancholy and serious: the materials of each collected, according to their character, from rural life, from city life, from music, from poetry; in a word, from every part of nature, and every part of art. To
pass from poetry to painting, the Crucifixion of Polycrates, by Salvator Rosa, P is a most affecting representation of various human figures, seen under different modes of horror and pity, as they contemplate a dreadful spectacle, the crucifixion above mentioned. The Aurora of Guido, on the other side, is one of those joyous exhibitions, where nothing is seen but youth and beauty, in every attitude of elegance and grace. The former picture in poetry would have been a deep Penseroso; the latter, a most pleasing and animated Allegro.
And to what cause are we to refer these last enumerations of striking effects ?
To a very different one from the former: not to an opposition of contrary incidents, but to a concatenation or accumulation of many that are similar and congenial.
And why have concatenation and accumulation such a force ? From these most simple and obvious truths, that many things similar, when added together, will be more in quantity than any
p See page 30.