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There was a young man, sitting at the elbow of the little crest-fallen fellow, with a round clerical curl, which tokened him to be a son of the church. Hav. ing silently awaited the full time for a rally, if any spirit of resurrection had been left in the fallen hero, and none such appearing, he addressed himself to the challenger with an air so modest, but withal so impressive, that it was impossible not to be prejudiced in his favour, before he opened his cause.
• I cannot wonder,' said he, • if the gentleman who has challenged us to produce a parallel to any one of the great names he has enumerated, finds us unprepared with any living rival to those illustrious characters: their fame, though the age in which they lived did not always appreciate it as it ought, hath yet been rising day by day in the esteem of posterity, till time hath stampt a kind of sacredness upon it, which it would now be a literary impiety to blaspheme. There are some amongst those, whom their advocate bath named, I cannot speak or think of but with a reverence only short of idolatry. Not this nation only but all Europe hath been enlightened by their labours : the great principle of nature, the
which the whole system of the universe moves and gravitates, hath been developed and demonstrated by the penetrating, I had almost said the preternatural, powers of our immortal Newton. The ent race of philosophers can only be considered as his disciples; but they are disciples who do honour to their master : If the principle of gravitation be the grand desideratum of philosophy, the discovery is with him, the application, inferences and advantages of that discovery are with those who succeed him; and can we accuse the present age of being idle or unable to avail themselves of the ground he gave them? Let me remind you: that our present solar system is furnished with more planets than Newton knew; that our late observations upon the transit of the planet Venus were decisive for the proof and confirmation of his system : that we have circumnavigated the globe again and again; that we can boast the researches and
discoveries of a Captain Cook, who, though he did not invent the compass, employed it as no man ever did, and left a map behind him, compared to which Sir Isaac Newton's was a sheet of nakedness and error: it is with gravitation therefore as with the loadstone; their powers have been discovered by our predecessors, but we have put them to their noblest uses.
• The venerable names of Bacon and Locke were, if I mistake not, mentioned in the same class with Newton, and though the learned gentleman could no doubt have made his selection more numerous, I doubt if he could have made it stronger, or more to the purpose of his own assertions.
• I have always regarded Bacon as the father of philosophy in this country, yet it is no breach of candour to observe, that the darkness of the age which he enlightened, affords a favourable contrast to set off the splendor of his talents : but do we, who applaud him, read him? Yet if such is our veneration for times long since gone by, why do we not? The fact is, intermediate wrilers have disseminated his original matter through more pleasing vehicles, and we concur, whether commendably or not, to put his volumes upon the superannuated list, allowing him however an unalienable compensation upon our praise, and reserving to ourselves a right of taking him from the shelf, whenever we are disposed to sink the merit of a more recent author by a comparison with him. I will not therefore disturb his venerable dust, but turn without further delay to the author of the Essay upon the Human Understanding.
• This essay, which professes to define every thing, as it arises or passes in the mind, must ultimately be compiled from observations of its author upon himself and within himself : before com. pare
the merit of this work therefore with the merit of any other man's work of our own immediate times, I must compare what it advances as general to mankind, with what I perceive within my particular self; and upon this reference, speaking only for an humble individual, I must own to my shame, that my understanding
and the author's do by no means coincide either in definitions or ideas. I may have reason to lament the inaccuracy or the sluggishness of my own senses and perceptions, but I cannot submit to any man's doctrine against their conviction : I will only say that Mr. Locke's metaphysics are not my metaphysics, and, as it would be an ill compliment to any one of our contemporaries to compare him with a writer, who to me is unintelligible, so will I hope it can never be considered as a reflection upon so great a name as Mr. Locke's, not to be understond by so insignificant a man as myself.'
Well, sir,' cried the sullen gentleman with a sneer, • I think you have contrived to dispatch our philosophers; you have now only a few obscure poets to dismiss in like manner, and you will have a clear field for yourself and your friends.'
Ingeniis non ille favet, plauditque sepultis,
The sarcastic speech of the old snarler, with wbich we concluded the last paper, being undeserved on the part of the person to whom it was applied, was very properly disregarded; and the clergyman proceeded as follows:
• The poets you have named will never be mentioned by me but with a degree of enthusiasın, which I should rather expect to be accused of carrying to excess, than of erring in the opposite extreme, had you not put me on my guard against partiality, by charging me with it beforehand. I shall therefore without further apology or preface begin with Shakspeare, first named by you, and first in fame as well as time : It would be madness in me to think of bringing any poet now living into competition with Shakspeare; but I hope it will not be thought madness, or any thing resembling to it, to observe to you, that it is not in the nature of things possible for any poet to appear in an age so polished as this of ours, who can be brought into any critical comparison with that extraordinary and eccentric genius.
• For let us consider the two great striking features of his drama, sublimity and character. Now sublimity involves sentiment and expression; the first of these is in the soul of the poet ; it is that portion of inspiration, which we personify when we call it The Muse ; so far I am free to acknowledge there is no immediate reason to be given, why her visits should be confined to any age, nation or person; she may fire the heart of the poet on the shores of lonia three thousand years ago, or on the banks of the Cam or Isis at the present moment; but so far as language is concerned, I may venture to say that modern diction will never strike modern ears with that awful kind of magic, which antiquity gives to words and phrases no longer in familiar use: In this respect our great dramatic poet hath an advantage over his distant descendants, which he owes to time, and which of course is one more than he is indebted for to his own pre-eminent genius. As for character, which I suggested as one of the two most striking features of Shakspeare's drama, (or in other words the true and perfect delineation of nature) in this our poet is indeed a master unrivalled; yet who will not allow the happy coincidence of time for this perfection in a writer of the drama ? The different orders of men, which Shakspeare saw and copied, are in many instances extinct, and such must have the charms of novelty at least in our eyes : And has the modern dramatist the same rich and various field of character? The level manners of a polished age furnish little choice to an author, who now enters on the task, in which such numbers have gone before him, and so exhausted the materials, that it is justly to be wondered at, when any thing like variety can be struck out. Dramatic charace ters are portraits drawn from nature, and if all the sitters have a family likeness, the artist must either depart from the truth, or preserve the resemblance; in like manner the poet must either invent characters, of which there is no counterpart in existence, or