« PreviousContinue »
his success, that, from the knowledge of these causes, rules may be derived productive of like success in all similar cases. To be sound and right, art must thus be built on the broad basis of experience, to the rejection of all narrow notions, all pre-conceived judgements, and all priori reasonings.
son of it
subsequent works on the same subject.
By adherence the most scrupulous to this inductive method, Aristotle's Rhetoric threw into the back-ground ceding and the flimsy theories of Gorgias, Pamphilus, Callippus, and all preceding writers on the same art. Cicero says, that it had done this so completely in his time, that the use of those writers was totally superseded, and that no scholar thought of having recourse to any of them, but applied to Aristotle solely 1; and this decided superiority over all his precursors, procured for him the utmost reverence from all succeeding writers, Greek and Roman, on what they deemed the same important subject. The most copious of the Greeks was Dionysius of Halicarnassus, though most of his works are now reduced to mere fragments. 2 He extols Aristotle for his perspicuity and energy; and for qualities which this rhetorician equally admired his sweetness and elegance. Quintilian, a critic equally judicious, regards the Stagirite as the prince of philosophers; and knows not what part of his character most to admire, the extent and variety of his knowledge, the multiplicity of his writings, the acuteness of his inventions, the suavity and brightness of his diction. 4 But of all his eulogists,
1 Cicero de Invent. Rhetor. I. ii. c. 2.
2 The most complete of his works is the treatise De Structura Nomi-The collocation of words in reference to harmony, of which I have spoken in my History of Ancient Greece, P. i. vol. i. c. 5. p. 239, et seq. 6th edit.
3 Eģetaσis Twv Apxaιwv, p. 70. Edit. Sylburg.
4 Conf. Quintilian. Inst. Orator. 1. i. c. 1. 1. x, c. 1.,, l. xii, c. II.
Cicero stands at the head5; and the sincerity of Cicero is attested in his own immortal works. I will not say, that the treatise "De Oratore," the most elaborate of all those works, is disposed into three books, to correspond with the three books respectively into which Aristotle had divided his Rhetoric; but I will affirm, that both by Cicero and Quintilian, Aristotle is closely followed, and in essential points exactly copied the same divisions and definitions, the same topics of argumentation in the three kinds of oratory, the same analysis of passions and affections, the same delineation of manners and characters, the same grounds of theory, and the same rules of practice.
Several of these rules, both in rhetoric and poetry, were Contrasted enforced with too much rigour by critics, about the of others. beginning of the last century. The Bossus, the Batteux, the Daciers, and the Dennises, demanded a scrupulous compliance with Aristotle's rules, by no means exacted by their original proposer; who never ceases to inculcate, that practical matters neither require nor admit of metaphysical precision. But if the critics of those times erred on the side of intension and severity, those of our day err still more dangerously on that of relaxation and indulgence. Instead of exhorting the student who aspires to excellence, to dive with the Stagirite into the inmost recesses of the heart and understanding, they tell him, "that we arrive at a perfect knowledge of our
5 There was this difference, he said, between Aristotle and other teachers of Rhetoric," quod ille eadem acie mentis qua rerum omnium vim naturamque viderat, hæc quoque aspexit quæ ad dicendi artem pertinebant. De Orator. l. ii. c. 38. Pope probably thought of this passage when he said, that poets
stood convinc'd 'twas fit,
Essay on Criticism.
Longinus on the Sublime. His character and merits.
minds as we do of our native parish, without study and without attention; and that the arts to which this knowledge of the mind is applicable, are really no arts at all. The art of reasoning is no less absurd than the art of seeing or hearing, and the doctrine of rhetoric is no more useful to a speaker than anatomical dissection to a boxer." In such ignorant and disgusting petulance, the antidote is conveyed at the same time with the poison; but the frequent repetition of such paradoxes, couched more artfully, has a tendency to corrupt the public mind: they have infected even men of real learning, and thereby given them more than due boldness in disputing maxims which length of time and general approbation had established. Of this disposition, we have an example in Mr. Knight's valuable work on taste. Because the productions of Homer, and Pindar, and Euripides, preceded Aristotle's "Art of Poetry," Mr. K. is inclined to regard this latter work with little reverence, and to treat some of its most important doctrines as errors. 7 But as a proficient in Greek learning, he has only rejected the authority of Aristotle to become the devoted disciple of Longinus, an author assuredly most estimable; but though agreeing with Aristotle in taste and feeling, of all ancient critics the most unlike to him in style and method.
No work is better known than that of Longinus “On the Sublime," and none was ever better calculated to be popular: he was a philosopher, who, living in the degenerate times of imperial despotism, and infected with the loaded Alexandrian style, retained all the honest
6 See more of this in Edinburgh Review, October, 1809.
7 See Knight on Taste, p. 254. & 335, 4th Edit.
8 They cite the same examples with the same admiration; and for the real and genuine sources of the sublime, the reader may consult Ethic. Nicom. 1. i. c. 10, & l. iv. c. 3.
and manly spirit of the ancient republics. His character was generous and lofty, his feelings were lively and keen, and his expressions, corresponding to his feelings, were animated and glowing. He has been called the sublime Longinus; for he should seem to have been the first who applied that term in a sense before unknown in literature or criticism. But instead of defining it after the Aristotelian method, or when a general definition is not to be found, enumerating, as Aristotle does, the various meanings in which it is used, either by the world at large or by philosophers 10; instead of entering into the painful investigation of causes, Longinus proceeds at once to announce a bold, and noble, and most striking effect: "The sublime in writing," he says, "is that which raises and exalts the reader's mind; and giving to him a certain proud elevation, fills him with joy and exultation, as if he had himself produced the fine things which he has read." This description, warm and animated as it is, deserves the praise of being correctly true; and the feelings of every man of taste reverberate those of Longinus, when transported by him into the midst of the beauties. of Homer, and Plato, and Demosthenes, the critic is in
9 Sublimitas is used once, I think, by Quintilian, to denote a quality of style. Inst. Orator, l. xii. c. x. p. 1091. Edit. Burman. Quintilian says, vi, sublimitate," employing these two words to express what Dionysius calls the deworms of Demosthenes. Vid. Dionys. TEPL δεινοτητος Δημοσθεν.
10 In all his inquiries, Aristotle is attentive to the “πλeovaɣws λeyoμeva,” the multifariam dicta. See particularly Ethic. Nicom. 1. v. c. i. p. 193. Edit. Oxon. Those things are homonymous, whose names are the same but their definitions different. Categor. c. i. p. 14. Edit. Du Val. And names are transferred from one thing to another, not only according to those natural principles of association which Aristotle was the first to discriminate and explain, but from accidental, or rather accessional causes, indefinite in numbers. In reasoning, therefore, we must always regard, not merely the name itself, but its definition.
spired by the passages which he cites, and reflects no small portion of their original lustre. But those who think more deeply, will somewhat abate their admiration, when the treatise on the sublime is considered as a didactic work, either complete in theory or useful in practice.
Longinus has indicated five sources of the sublime greatness of thought, enthusiasm of passion, graceful figures of speech, a certain splendour of words, and a certain magnificence of composition. All these things are in various ways delightful. But do they all fill the mind with joy and exultation? Instead of pausing to consider this question, Longinus hurries his readers into an assemblage of new beauties of writing, displayed with a taste exquisitely sensible to their charms. But do all these beauties, or the sources from which they are drawn, correspond, I say, not equally, but in any degree whatever, with the effect which he had announced as the test of the sublime? On the contrary, Longinus has said, and had he not said it, the thing would be equally true, that many passions, instead of expanding and exalting the soul, have a direct tendency to contract and depress it. 12 His examples are fear and sorrow; and, therefore, jealous love, of which fear and sorrow are constituent and essential elements. Yet Sappho's amatory ode, in which jealousy is delineated with natural pathos, and the strictest fidelity, is given by Longinus as a prominent example of the true sublime. 13 Does the passion of jealousy then exalt the soul 14, or can any expression of jealousy have in any degree this tendency? Such an expression may be accurate, animated, delicate, and affecting;
11 De Sublim. c. viii.
12 Sect. viii.
14 Othello's occupation's gone.-SHAKSPEARE.