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SERMONS by Hodgson,
336 THOMSON's Seasons. See Aixix.
on the Conduet of Admiral
- Appeal to the Public, 236 TOLLER's Sermon for propagating Chrifa
Six old Plays, of which Shakespeare,
SMITR, Capt. his Military Di&ionary,
200 T Iew of the Evidence relative to the
Free Masen Sermon, 39 7 3 of the present State of Ireland,
SORRows of Werter,.
. W.. .
intended to have been spoken at VV factions found near Batb, 73
Watts's Pofthumous Works, '425
148 WESKETT'S Preliminary Discourse of
ŞTURGES's Confiderations on the Church
Specimen of the Inftitutes of
WILMER', Cafes in Surgery, 390
138 Women. See ALEXANDER.
Li' See CRUTWELL,
MONTHLY REVIEW, .. For JŲ LY, 1779.
ART. I. The Works of she English Poets, with Prefaces Biographical
and Critical. By Samuel Johr.son. The Heads engraved by Bar-
I has at length made its appearance. Promises that are delayed too frequently, end in disappointment; but to this remark the present publication is an exception. We must ingenuously confess, that, from the first of its being advertised, we considered Dr. Johnson's name merely as a Jure which the proprietors of the work had obtained, to draw in the unwary purchaser ; taking it for granted that he would have just allotted, as he owns he originally intended, to every poet, an advertisement, like those which are found in the French miscel. lanies, containing a few dates, and a general character; an undertaking, as he obferves, not very tedious or difficult; and, we may add, an undertaking also that would have conferred not mach reputation upon the 'Writer, nor have communicated much information to his readers. Happily for both, the honek defire of giving useful pleasure, to borrow his own expression, has led him beyond his first intention. This honest desire is very amply gratified. In the walk of biography and criticism, Dr. Johnson has long been without a rival. It is barely justice to acknowledge that he still maintains his superiority. The prea fent work is no way inferior to the best of his very celebrated productions of the same class.
Of the four volumes of his Prefaces already published (more lives being promised), the first is allotted to Cowley and Waller, the second to Milton and Butler, the third is appropriated entirely to Dryden, and the fourth is divided between poets of inferior name, Denham, Sprat, Roscommon, Rochester, Yalden, Oto ...VOL, LXI.
way, Duke, Dorset, Halifax, Stepney, Walth, arth, King, J. Philips, Smith, Pomfret, and Hughes.
In' the narrative of Cowley's life there is little, except the manner in which it is told, that is new; but this deficiency, which was not in the Biographer's power to remedy, is fully
compensated for in the review of his writings, which abounds • in original criticism. Cowley's poetical character is introduced ' with an account of a race of writers who appeared about the
beginning of the seventeenth century, whom Dr. Johnson terms the Metaphysical Poets. ..
"The metaphyfical poets, says he, were men of learning, and to shew their learning was their whole endeavour ; but, unlockily resolving to thew it in rhyme, instead of writing poetry, they only wrote verses, and very often such verses as stood the trial of the fina ger better than of the ear; for the modulation was so imperfect, that they were only found to be verses by counting the syllables
* If the father of criticism has rightly denominated poetry région peshvilixxi, an imitative art, these writers will, without great wrong, lose their right to the name of poets ; for they cannot be said to have imitated any thing: they neither copied nature nor life ; neither painted the forms of matter, nor represented the operations of in. tellect.
" Those however who deny them to be poets, allow them to be wits, Dryden confesses of himself and his contemporaries, that they fall below Donne in wit, but maintains that they surpass him in
• If Wit be well described by Pope, as being “ that which has been often thought, but was never before so well expreffed,” they certainly never attained, nor ever sought it ; for they endeavoured to be fingular in their thoughts, and were careless of their di&tion. But Pope's account of wit is undoubredly erroneous : he depresses it below its natural dignity, and reduces it from strength of thought to happiness of language.
• If by a more noble and more adequate conception that be con. fidered as Wit, which is at once natural and new, that which, though not obvious, is, upon its first production, acknowledged to be jutt; if it be that, which he that never found it, wonders how he missed ; to wit of this kind the metaphysical poets have seldom risen. Their thoughts are often new, but seldom natural; they are not obvious, but neither are they just ; and the reader, far from wondering that he missed them, wonders more frequently by what perverfeness of industry they were ever found.
• But Wit, abstracted from its effects upon the hearer, may be more rigorously and philosophically considered as a kind of difcordia *concors ; a combination of diffimilar images, or discovery of occule resemblances in things apparently unlike. Of wit, thus defined, they have more than enough. The most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together; nature and art are ransacked for iljustracions, comparisons, and allusions; their learning instructs, and their subtilty surprises; but the reader commonly thinks his improve.
• From this account of their compositions it will be readily infer. red, that they were not successful in representing or moving the affections. As they were wholly employed on something unexpected and surprising, they had no regard to that uniformity of sentiment which enables us to conceive and to excite the pains and the pleasure of other minds: they never enquired what, on any occasion, they should have said or done; but wrote rather as beholders than partakers of human nature ; as Beings looking upon good and evil, impaslive and at leisure ; as Epicurean deities making remarks on the actions of men, and the viciffitudes of life, without interest and with . out emotion. Their courtship was void of fondness, and their lamentation of sorrow. Their wish was only to say what they hoped had been never said before.
• Nor was the sublime more within their reach than the pathetic; for they never attempted that comprehension and expanse of chought which at once fills the whole mind, and of which the first effect is sudden astonishment, and the second rational admiration. Sublimity is produced by aggregation, and littleness by dispersion. Great thoughts are always general, and confift. in positions not limited by exceptions, and in descriptions not descending to minuteness. It is with great propriety that Subtlety, which in its original import means exility of particles, is taken in its metaphorical meaning for nicety of distinction. Those writers who lay on the watch for novelty could have liccle hope of greatness ; for great things cannot have escaped former observation. Their attempts were always analyric; they broke every image into fragments; and could no more represent, by their slender conceits and laboured particularities, the prospects of nature, or the scenes of life, than he, who diffects a. Sun beam with a prism, can exhibit the wide effulgence of a sum. mer noon.
" What they wanted however of the sublime, they endeavoured to supply by hyperbole ; their amplification had no limits ; they lefo not only reason but fancy behind them; and produced combinations of confused magnificence, that not only could not be credited, but - could not be imagined.
" Yet great labour, directed by great abilities, is never wholly loft : if they frequently threw away their wit upon false conceits, • they likewise sometimes struck out unexpected truth: if cheir con
ceits were far-fetched, they were often worth the carriage. To write on their plan, it was at least necessary to read and thinkNo man could be born a metaphysical poet, nor assume the dignity of a wri. ter, by descripcions copied from descriptions, by imitations borrowed from imitations, by traditional imagery, and hereditary fimiles, by readinels of rhyme, and volubility of syllables.
! In perusing the works of this race of authors, the mind is exercised either by recollection or inquiry; either something already learned is to be retrieved, or something new is to be examined. If their greatness feldom elevates, their acuteness often surprises ; if · the imagination is not always gratified, at least the powers of reflec