Imatges de pÓgina

An inftructor like Addifon was now wanting, whofe remarks being fuperficial might be eafily understood, and being juft might prepare the mind for more attainments. Had he prefented Paradife Loft to the publick with all the pomp of fyftem and severity of fcience, the criticifm would perhaps have been admired, and the poem ftill have been neglected; but by the blandifhments of gentleness and facility, he has made Milton an univerfal favourite, with whom readers of every clafs think it neceffary to be pleased.

He defcended now and then to lower difquifi tions; and by a ferious difplay of the beauties of Chevy-Chafe expofed himfelf to the ridicule of Wagftaff, who bestowed a like pompous character on Tom Thumb; and to the contempt of Dennis, who, confidering the fundamental pofition of his criticism, that Chevy-Chase pleafes, and ought to please, because it is natural, obferves, "that there is a "way of deviating from nature, by bombaft or "tumour, which foars above nature, and enlarges "images beyond their real bulk; by affectation, "which forfakes nature in queft of fomething un"fuitable; and by imbecillity, which degrades "nature by faintnefs and diminution, by obfcuring "its appearances, and weakening its effects." In Chevy-Chafe there is not much of either bombaft or affectation; but there is chill and lifeless imbecillity. The ftory cannot poffibly be told in a manner that fhall make lefs impreffion on the mind.

Before the profound obfervers of the prefent race repofe too fecurely on the confcioufnefs of their fuperiority to Addifon, let them confider his Remarks on Ovid, in which may be found fpecimens of criticifin fufficiently subtle and refined: let them

[blocks in formation]

perufe likewife his Effays on Wit, and on the Pleafures of Imagination, in which he founds art on the bafe of nature, and draws the principles of invention from difpofitions inherent in the mind of man with skill and elegance, fuch as his contemners will not eafily attain.

As a defcriber of life and manners, he must be allowed to ftand perhaps the firft of the first rank. His humour, which, as Steele obferves, is peculiar to himfelf, is fo happily diffufed as to give the grace of novelty to domestick scenes and daily occurrences. He never" outsteps the modefty of nature," nor raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth. His figures neither divert by distortion, nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with for much fidelity, that he can be hardly faid to invent; yet his exhibitions have an air fo much original, that it is difficult to fuppofe them not merely the product of imagination.

As a teacher of wifdom, he may be confidently followed. His region has nothing in it enthufiaftick or fuperftitious; he appears neither weakly credulous, nor wantonly fceptical; his morality is neither dangerously lax, nor impracticably rigid. All the enchantment of fancy, and all the cogency of argument, are employed to recommend to the reader his real intereft, the care of pleafing the Author of his being. Truth is fhewn fometimes as the phantom of a vifion; fometimes appears halfveiled in an allegory; fometimes attracts regard in the robes of fancy; and fometimes steps forth in the confidence of reason. She wears a thoufand dreffes, and in all is pleafing.

Mille habet ornatus, mille decenter habet.

His profe is the model of the middle ftyle; on grave fubjects not formal, on light occafions not grovelling; pure without fcrupulofity, and exact without apparent elaboration; always equable, and always eafy, without glowing words or pointed fentences. Addifon never deviates from his track to fnatch a grace; he feeks no ambitious ornaments, and tries no hazardous innovations. His page is always luminous, but never blazes in unexpected fplendour.

It was apparently his principal endeavour to avoid all harshness and severity of diction; he is therefore fometimes verbofe in his tranfitions and connections, and fometimes defcends too much to the language of conversation; yet if his language had been lefs idiomatical, it might have loft fomewhat of its genuine Anglicifm. What he attempted, he performed; he is never feeble, and he did not wish to be energetick; he is never rapid, and he never ftagnates. His fentences have neither ftudied amplitude, nor affected brevity: his periods, though not diligently rounded, are voluble and eafy. Whoever wishes to attain an English ftyle, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not oftentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addifon.

[blocks in formation]


JOHN HUGHES, the fon of a citizen_in London, and of Anne Burgefs, of an ancient family in Wiltshire, was born at Marlborough, July 29, 1677. He was educated at a private fchool, and though his advances in literature are, in the Biographia, very oftentatiously displayed, the name of his mafter is fomewhat ungratefully concealed *.

At nineteen he drew the plan of a tragedy; and paraphrafed, rather too profufely, the ode of Horace which begins" Integer Vitæ." To poetry he added the fcience of mufick, in which he seems to have attained confiderable fkill, together with the practice of defign, or rudiments of painting.

His ftudies did not withdraw him wholly from bufinefs, nor did bufinefs hinder him from ftudy. He had a place in the office of ordnance; and was fecretary to feveral commiffions for purchafing lands neceffary to fecure the royal docks at Chatham and Portsmouth; yet found time to acquaint himself with modern languages.

*He was educated in a diffenting academy, of which the Rev. Mr. Thomas Rowe was tutor; and was a fellow-ftudent there with Dr. Ifaac Watts, Mr. Samuel Say, and other perfons of eminence. In the "Hora Lyrica" of Dr. Watts is a poem to the memory of Mr. Rowe. H.

In 1697 he published a poem on the Peace of Rif wick and in 1699 another piece, called The Court of Neptune, on the return of king William, which he addreffed to Mr. Montague, the general patron of the followers of the Mufes. The fame year he produced a fong on the duke of Gloucefter's birthday.

He did not confine himfelf to poetry, but culti vated other kinds of writing with great fuccefs; and about this time fhewed his knowledge of hu man nature by an Effay on the Pleasure of being deceived. In 1702 he publifhed, on the death of king William, a Pindarić ode, called The Houfe of Naffau; and wrote another paraphrafe on the Otium Divos of Horace.

[ocr errors]

In 1703 his ode on Mufick was performed at Stationers Hall; and he wrote afterwards fix cantatas, which were fet to mufick by the greatest mafter of that time, and feem intended to oppofe or exclude the Italian opera, an exotick and irrational entertainment, which has been always combated, and always has prevailed.

His reputation was now fo far advanced, that the publick began to pay reverence to his name; and he was folicited to prefix a preface to the tranflation of Boccalini, a writer whofe fatirical vein coft him his life in Italy; but who never, I believe, found many readers in this country, even though introduced by fuch powerful recommendation.

He tranflated Fontenelle's Dialogues of the Dead; and his version was perhaps read at that time, but is now neglected; for by a book not neceffary, and owing its reputation wholly to its turn of diction, little notice can be gained but from thofe who can enjoy the graces of the original. To the dialogues

« AnteriorContinua »