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confolation of dulnefs to feize upon those exceffes, which are the overflowings of faculties they never enjoyed. Are not the gifts of imagination here mistaken for the ftrength of paffions? Doubtlefs, where frong paffions accompany great parts, as perhaps they often do, there imagination may increase their force and activity: but where paffions are calm and gentle, imagination of itfelf fhould feem to have no conflict but fpeculatively with reafon. There indeed it wages an eternal war; and, if not controuled and ftrictly regulated, will carry the patient into endless extravagancies. I ufe with propriety the term patient; becaufe men, under the influence of ima gination, are most truly diftempered. The degree of this distemper will be in proportion to the prevalence of imagination over reafon, and, according to this proportion, amount to more or lefs of the whimfical; but when reafon fhall become as it were extinct, and imagination govern alone, then the dilemper will be madnefs under the wildest and most fantastic modes. Thus one of thefe invalids, perhaps, fhall be all forrow for having been moft unjustly deprived of the crown; though his vocation, poor man! be that of a fchoolmafter. Another is all joy, like Horace's madman; and it may feem even cruelty to cure him. A third all fear; and dares not make water, left he should cause a deluge.
might moft fuccefsfully be oppofed to the delufions of imagination, as being proof to the fenfes, and carrying conviction unavoidably to the understanding: but I fufpect, that the understanding, or reafoning faculty, hath little to do in all these cafes: at least so it should feem from the two following, which are very remarkable, and well attested.
"Fienus, in his curious little book De Viribus Imaginationis, records from Donatus the cafe of a man, who fancied his body increafed to fuch a fize, that he durft not attempt to pafs through the door of his chamber. The phyfician, believing that nothing could more effectually cure this error of imagi nation than to fhew that the thing could actually be done, caufed the patient to be thruft forcibly through it: who, ftruck with horror, and falling fuddenly into agonies, complained of being crushed to pieces, and expired foon after.--Reason, certainly, was not concerned here.
"The other cafe, as related by Van Swieten, in his Commentaries upon Boerhaave, is that of a learned man, who had ftudied till he fancied his legs to be of glafs; in confequence of which he durft not attempt to flir, but was conftantly under anxiety about them. His maid, bringing fome wood to the fire, threw it carelessly down; and was feverely reprimanded by her mafter, who was terrified not a little for his legs of glafs. The furly wench, out of all patience with his megrims, as fhe called them, gave him a blow with a log upon the parts affected: which fo enrag
"The operations and caprices of imagination are various and endlefs; and, as they cannot be reduced him, that he inftantly rofe up, ed to regularity or fyftem; fo it is highly improbable that any certain method of cure fould ever be found out for them. It hath generally Leen thought, that matter of fact
and from that moment recovered the use of his legs.-Was reafon concerned any more here? or, was it not rather one blind impulse acting against another?"
ESTIMATE of Dr. JOHNSON's CRITICAL ABILITIES.
[From an ESSAY on his LIFE,
R Tyers fays of Dr. John
"M fon, that he was fitted by
nature for a critic." That he had great powers of difcrimination, and often difplayed great critical abilities, mut be acknowledged: but it is at the fame time true, that his criticifins were very far from being always juft. It may, perhaps, be doubted, whether his various perfonal and fyftematical prejudices did not, in a confiderable degree, difqualify him, at least in many inftances, for properly difcharging the office of a judicious and impartial critic. His decifions feem to have been received with too implicit a reverence by his friends and admirers. Whatever the conceptions of Johnfon were, he could exprefs them with acuteness and with vigour; and his criticisms were often rendered important, not by the juncfs of the remarks which they contained, but by the ftrength of the language in which they were delivered. In his Lives of the Poets, he has not done juf tice to the productions of Hammod, Gay, or Akenfide; and his rude and arrogant criticifms on the fublime odes of Gray, can be perufed by a reader of true poetical tate only with difguft, Nor do Johnfon's remarks on Milton's Ly. cidas do any honour to his critical abilities. Few men of real tafte have been infenfible of its beauties; and Dr. Jofeph Warton obferves, that as "Addifon fays, that he who defires to know whether he has a true tafte for history or not, fhould confider whether he is pleaf ed with Livy's manner of telling a
CHARACTER, and WRITINGS.]
ftory; fo, perhaps it may be faid, that he who wishes to know whether he has a true tafie for poetry or not, fhould confider, whether he is highly delighted or not with the perufal of Milton's Lycidas." But Dr. Johnfon is of fo different an opinion, that, after a variety of ill-grounded frictures on this piece, he fays, "Surely no man could have fancied that he read Lycidas with pleafure had he not known its author.
"He appears to have had a ve ry unreafonable and ill-founded averfion to blank verfe, and a great diflike to paftoral poetry. He had, indeed, little taste for rural fcenes: and when he travelled through France with Mr. Thrale, would not even look out of the windows of the carriage, to view the face of the country; and feemed to think the most pleafing profpects unworthy of his attention. Such a man, therefore, could not be expected to have a very high relith for those poetical compofitions, in which the beauties of nature are defcribed; nor could it reafonably be expected that of fuch compofitions he would be a judicious and impartial critic.
"His life of Dr. Watts is written with great candour; and, perhaps, he might be the more inclined to do juice to that ingenious divine, though a Diffenter, not only from refpect for his piety, but alfo from fome grateful remembrance of the affittance which he had received from his works, in the compilation of his Dictionary. He has many quotations from Warts, and has incorporated into his Dic
tionary net a few of the difinitions which occur in the Logic of that writer. Mr. Courtenay, in the notes to his "Poetical Review of the literary and moral Character of Dr. Johnfon," has given eight lines from Watts's poems as a fufficient fpecimen to enable the reader to judge of his poetical merit. But furely to felect a few of the worst lines of an author, who wrote fo much as Dr. Watts did, is not a very candid method of eftimating his merit. If Mr. Courtenay, infread of the lines which he has felected, had given Dr. Watts's Ode to Lady Sunderland, its elegance and beauty would have been acknowledged by every reader of tafte.
"The Life of Dr. Young, which is inferted among Dr. Johnfon's biographical Prefaces, but of which he was avowedly not the author, is not favourably written. There is in it much zeal for the honour of Dr. Young's fon, who appears, indeed, to have been injuriously treated; but too little regard for the honour of the father. Young had great weakneffes; but he had alfo confiderable virtues, and great literary merit. In the life, however, which is given of him in this collection, his foibles are much more laboriously displayed than his excellencies; and if the fon of Dr. Young be as dutiful as he is reprefented, which I am willling to believe, he cannot be much pleafed at the account which is given of his father in the Liyes of the Poets. Young is, indeed, juftly cenfured for the many inftances of adulation which occur in his writings; and his anxiety for preferment was unworthy of his character. But, in other refpects, he is treated with too much ieverity;
and his great work, the Night Thoughts, furely deferved to be spo ken of in better terms than thofe of "the mournful, angry, gloomy Night Thoughts." In justice to the writer of the life of Young, it thould, however, be observed. that in other places he files the Night Thoughts "extraordinary poems," and ornaments to our language;' and that in fome parts of this life the ftyle and manner of Johnfon are very happily imitated.
"The principal fault of Johnfon, as a biographical writer, feems to have been, too great a propenfity to introduce injurious reflections againft men of refpectable character, and to ftate facts unfavourable to their memory, on flight and infuificient grounds. Biographical wit ers in general, are charged wi h the contrary fault, too great a partiality in favour of the perons whose lives they undertake to relate. Impartiality fhould certainly be aimed at; and the truth fhould be giv en, when it can be obtained. But truth, at left the whole truth, is often not attainable; and, in doubtful cafes, candour and equity feem to dictate that it is beft to err on the favourable fide. No benefit can be derived to the interests either of virtue, or of learning, by inju:ious reprefentations of men eminent for genius and literature."
"Notwithstanding the errors, and inftances of partiality and mitreprefentation, which occafionally occur in the Lives of the Po ets, they contain fo many accurate and just observations on human nature, fuch original and curious remarks on various literary fubjects, and abound with fo many beau ies of style, that they cannot be perused by any reader of taste without a great degree of pleasure.
of refpectable characters of diffe rent fects and parties. It was this impartiality which gave offence to Dr. Johnson.
fides their general merit as compo-
"His Review of Dr. Blackwell's Memoirs of the court of Auguftus, which is printed in Davies's collection, is written with great afperity. Blackwell's fiyle was indeed, in fome refpects, liable to juft exceptions; but it feems fufficiently evident, that the high fentiments of liberty, which are difplayed in Blackwell's book, was a principal caufe of the extreme feverity with which Dr. Johnfon treated him. The Differtation on the Epitaphs of Pope, contains many juft obfervations: but few compofitions of this kind will ftand the test of fo rigorous a mode of criticism.
"He could not endure even a tolerable degree of moderation in a writer, when political characters or topics were the fubject of dif cuffion. He spoke of Mr. Granger in abufive terms to Mr. Bofwell, as being a Whig; though the fact was, that if Mr. Granger had any political prejudices, they were rather on the Tory fide. But Mr. Granger was a very amiable man, and poffeffed much candour and ingenuoufnefs of difpofition. He was, therefore inclined to do juftice to thofe who differed from him either in politics or religion; and this moderation led him to fpeak well
"The style of Johnfon appear fuired to his peculiar character, and mode of thinking. It fees too learned for common readers; and, on the first publica ion of his Ramblers, many complaints were made of the frequent recurrence of hard words in thofe effays. It was with a view to this accufation against him, that he wrote that effay in the Idler, which contains a defence of the ufe of hard words, and in which he remarks, that "every author does not write for every reader." He was not ambitious of illiterate readers, and was willing to refign them to thofe writers whofe productions were better adapted to their capacities. "Difference of thoughts," fays he, "will produce difference of language. He that thinks with larger extent than another, will want words of larger meaning. He that thinks more fubtilty will feek for terms of more nice difcrimination." It is certain, that paffages fometimes occur in his writings, which are not very intel-. ligible to ordinary readers. Thus, in the preface to his Dictionary, he puts the following question."
"When the radical idea branch. es out into parallel ramifications, how can a confecutive feries be formed of fenfes in their nature collateral?”
"He was occafionally fond of antithefis and alliteration; and his periods are fometimes too artificial, and his phrafe too remote from the ordinary idiom of our language. But, notwithstanding the peculiarity of his ftyle, he has feldom inade ufe of words not to be found in preceding writers. "When com
mon words," fays he, "were lefs pleafing to the ear, or lefs diftinct in their fignification, I have familiarized the terms of philofophy by applying them to known objects and popular ideas; but rarely admitted any word not authorized by former writers." He confidered himfelf as having contributed to the improvement of the English language. He fays in his laft Rambler, I have laboured to refine our language to grammatical purity, and to clear it from colloquial
barbarifms, licentious idioms, and irregular combinations. Something perhaps, I have added to the ele gance of its conftruction, and fomething to the harmony of its cadence." Whatever may be the faults of his flyle, it has certainly great ftrength and great dignity, and his periods are often highly polifhed; and, perhaps, it would be difficult to point out any of his contemporaries, by whom the Eng lifh language was written with equal energy."