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• He had to art."
166 TRUE ART OF BEING AGREEABLE. difficulty, in order to relieve a beavy heart, stands excepted; but what is here meant, is, that a man should always go with inclination to the turn of the company he is going into, or not pretend to be of the party. It is certainly a very happy temper to be able to live with all kinds of dispositions, because it argues a mind Fall get by that lies open to receive what is pleasing to others, dat regards, and not obstinately bent on any particularity of its parties
, and re own.
This is it which makes me pleased with the charac and not ter of my good acquaintance Acasto. You meet him at the tables and conversations of the wise, the imper. tinent, the grave, the frolicsome, and the witty; and facetia yet his own character has nothing in it that can make him particularly agreeable to any one set of men; Acasto bas natural good sense, good nature, and discreo tion, so that every man enjoys himself in bis como pany; and though Acasto contributes nothing to the att acqui entertainment, he never was at a place where he was not welcome a second time. Without these subordi, nate good qualities of Acasto, a man of wit and learuing would be painful to the generality of mankind, instead of being pleasing. Witty men are apt to ima. gine they are agreeable as such, and by that means grow the worst companions imaginable; they deride any they h= the absent or rally the present, in a wrong mander, not knowing tha
if you pinch or tickle a man till be is uneasy in his seat, or angracefully distinguished from the rest of the company, you equally hurt him.
I was going to say, the true art of being agreeable in company, (but there can be no such thing as art in it) is to appear well pleased with those you are engas. ed with, and rather to seem well entertained, than to bring entertainment to others. A mau thus disposed is not indeed what we ordinarily call a good companion, but essentially is such, and in all the parts of bis conversation has something friendly in his behaviour, which conciliates men's minds more than the highest sallies of wit or starts of humour can possibly do.
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The feebleness of age in a man of this turn, has some. thing wbich should be treated with respect even in a man no otherwise venerable. The forwardness of youth, when it proceeds from alacrity and not insolence, has also its allowances. The companion who is formed for such by nature, gives to every character of life its due regards, and is ready to account for their imperfections, and receive their accomplishments as if they were his own. It must appear that you receive law from, and not give it to your company, to make you agreeable.
I remember Tally, speakmg I think of Antony, says that in eo facetiæ erant quæ nulla arte tradi possunt. “ He had a witty mirth wbich could be acquired by no art.” This quality must be of the kind of which I am now speaking; for all sorts of behavi. our which depend upon observation and knowledge of
life are to be acquired; but that which no one can de. Escribe, and is apparently the act of nature, must be
every where prevalent; hecause every thing it meets is a fit occasion to exert it, for he who follows nature can never be improper or anseasonable.
How unaccountable then must their behaviour be, who without any manner of consideration of what the company they have just now entered are upon, give themselves the air of a messenger, and make as distinet relations of the occurrences they last met with, as if they had been dispatched from those they talk to, to be punctually exact in a report of those circumstances; it is unpardonable to those wbo are met to enjoy one another, that a fresh man shall pop in, and give us only the last part of his own life, and put a stop to ours during the bistory. If such a man comes
from 'Change, whether you will or not, you must hear = how the stocks yo; and if you are ever so intensely
employed on a graver subject, a young fellow of the
other end of the town will take his place, and tell you, * Mrs. Such-a-one is charmingly handsome, because he
just now saw her. But I think I need not dwell yua this subject, since I have acknowledged there can be Do rules made for excelling this way; and precepts of this kind fare like rules for writing poetry, which, it is said, may have prevented ill poets, but never made good ones.
A GREAT GENIUS.
Cui mens divinior atque os
THERE is no character more frequently given, iba
that of being a genius. I have heard many a little sonnetteer called a fine genius. There is not an beroic scribbler in the nation that has not his admirers who think him a great genius.
My design is to consider wbat is properly a great genias, and to throw some thoughts together on so mn. common a subject.
Among great geniuses those few draw the admiration of all the world upon them, and stand up as the prodigies of mankind, who by the mere strength of natural parts, and without any assistance of art or learning, have produced works that were the delight of their own times, and the wonder of posterity. There appears something nobly wild and extravagant in these great natural geniuses, that is infinitely more beautiful than all the turn and polishing of what the French call a bel-esprit, by which they would express a genius te fined by conversation, reflection, and the reading of the most polite authors. The greatest genius which runs through the arts and sciences takes a kind of tinoture from them, and falls unavoidably into imitation
Many of these great natural geniuses that were never disciplined and broken by rules of art, are to be found among the ancients, and in particular among those of the more eastern parts of the world. Homer has innu. merable flights that Virgil was vot able to reach, and in the Old Testament we find several passages more ele. vated and sublime than any in Homer. At the same time that we allow a greater and more daring genius to
the ancients, we must own that the greatest of them 7
very much failed in, or, if you will, that they were much above the nicety and correctness of the moderns. In their similitudes and allusions, provided there was a likeness, they did not much trouble themselves about the decency of the comparison: thus Solomon resem. bles the nose of his beloved to the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus; as the coming of a thief in the night is a similitude of the same kind in the New Testament. It would be endless to make collections of this nature; Homer illustrates one of his heroes encompassed with the eneniy, by an ass in a field of
corn that has his sides belaboured by all the boys of Do the village without stirring a foot for it: and another
lossing to and fro in his bed and burning with resent. ment, to a piece of flesh broiled on the coals. This particular failure in the ancients, opens a large field of raillery to the little wits, who can laugh at an indecency, but not relish the sublime in these sorts of writings. The
present Emperor of Persia, conformable to this eastern way of thinking, amidst a great many pompous its titles, denominates himself the Sun of Glory and the
Nutmeg of Delight. In short, to cut off all cavilling
against the ancients, and particularly those of the 1
Warmer climates, who had most heat and life in their imaginations, we are to consider that the rule of ob. serving what the French call the Bienseance in an allu. sion, has been fonnd out of late years, and in the colder regions of the world; where we would make some amends for our want of force and spirit, by a scrupulous nicety and exactness in our compositions. Our
o the skil
to have raressing
countryman Shakspeare was a remarkable instance of this first kind of great geniuses.
I cannot quit this head without observing that Pindar was a great genins of the first class, who was bur. ried on by a natural fire and impetuosity to vast conceptions of things and noble sallies of imagination. At the same time, can any thing be more ridiculous than for men of a sober and moderate fancy to imitate this poet's way of writing in those monstrous compositious which go among as under the name of Pindarics? When I see people copying works, which, as Horace has represented them, are singular in their kind, and inimitable; when I see men following irregularities by rule, and by the little tricks of art straining after the pag the most unbounded flights of nature, I cannot but apply to them that passage in Terence;
Incerta hæc si tu postules Ratione certa facere, nihilo plus agas, Quam si des operam, ut cum ratione insanias. rely their
“ You may as well pretend to be mad and in your senses at the same time, as to think of reducing these uncertain things to any certainty by reason."
In short, a modern pindaric writer, compared with DISSOL Pindar, is like a sister among the Camisars compared with Virgil's Sibyl: there is the distortion, grimace, and outward figure, but nothing of that divine impulse which raises the mind above itself, and makes the sounds inore than human.
There is another kind of great geniases which I shall place in a second class, not as I think them inferior to the first, but only for distinction's sake, as they are of a different kind. This second class of great geniuses are those that have formed themselves by rules, and submitted the greatness of their nalural talents to the cure rections and restraints of art. Such among the Greeks were Plato and Aristotle ; among the Romans, Virgil and Tully; among the English, Milton and Sir Francis Bacon,
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