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New Testament is the standard of moral senti*ments. It is desirable to cultivate a good taste, and an elegant style of composition; and for this purpose, the productions of these two celebrated writers may be read, together with Burke on the Sublime, Alison on Taste, Blair's Lectures, and Campbell on Rhetoric.
Poetry is a bewitching, and if not of a strictly moral character, a dangerous species of writing. I by no means condemn it, for this would betray a gothic destitution of taste, as well as an ignorance of some of the first principles of our nature. The ear is tuned to enjoy the melody of numbers, and the imagination formed to delight in the creations of fancy. But still it must be recollected, that the imagination is amongst the inferior faculties of mind, and that the gratification of the senses is amongst the lowest ends of a rational existence: only a limited perusal of poetry is therefore to be allowed ; such an indulgence in this mental luxury and recreation, as will not unfit the mind, or deprive it of opportunity for severer and more useful pursuits. We should use poetry as we do those pleasing objects of nature, from which it derives its most lovely images; not as the regions of our constant abode, but as the scenes of our occasional resort. Although the present age can boast the noble productions of such men as Scott, Southey, Campbell, and Wordsworth, , whose poems every person of real taste will
I recommend the more habitual perusal of Spenser and Milton among the ancients, and Cowper and Montgomery among the mo
derns: the two first for their genius, and the others for their piety.*
The whole wide range of Natural History and Experimental Philosophy, présents a scene of interesting research, through which authors of the first respectability stand always ready to conduct you, unfolding at every step some new proof of the existence, and some fresh display of the wisdom, power, and goodness of the great First Cause. The sublime wonders of astronomy elevate the mind, and throw open an almost infinite field of contemplation and astonishment. Chymistry, by its combinations, affinities, and repulsions; by its principles as a theory, and the unlimited practical uses of these principles, is an endless career of pleasing and useful study. Optics, pneumatics, electricity, with all their attendant sciences, have been treated of by writers, whose productions assist us to explore the wonderful works of God: while botany shows that the weed we trample under our feet, no less than the mighty orb which rolls through illimitable space, obeys the laws, assumes the place, and accommodates itself to the order appointed by its Creator.
* As for Byron, possessing, as he does, the very soul of poetry, beyond all bis contemporaries, his exquisite pathos, and peerless beauty can make no atonement for his vices, and should have no power to reconcile is to his works. He is indeed, as he has been styled, the master of a Satanic school: infidelity and immorality are the lessons which all bis pages teach; and nearly all his characters embody and enforce. Never before did these dispositions receive such patronage from the poetic muse. Never was genius seen more closely allied 10 vice, than in the productions of this popular, but dangerous writer. His works are enough to corrupt the morals of a nation, and seem, indeed, to have been written for this dreadful purpose. He stands like a volcano in the world of letters, grand and inajestic, dark, lowering, and fiery; while every new work is but another eruption of lava uprin the interes's beneatis. He seems to have been suired up by the evil spirit to attempt, by his fascinating poems, ibat mischief, which the wit of Voltaire, the subtleties of Hume, and the popular ribaldries of Paine, had, in vain, endeavoured to achieve.
Ai length ihe indignation of heaven seems to have been roused, and to have scorched with its lightning the wings of his lofiy, but impious genius ; inasmuch as his later productions evince a singular destitution of that talent by which the earlier effusions of his mese were characterized. One can scarcely suppose it possible, what even he c ull read the las' cantos of his most licentions work, without secretly esclaiming, under a consciousness of their interiority, - liow am I failen!."
If young people would not be cursed by the infidelity and immorality wbich lurk in his pages, let them beware how they touch his volumes, as much as they wouid to embrace a beautiful form infected with the plague.
As to that class of books denominated novels, I join with every other moral and religious writer in condemning, as the vilest trash, the greater part of the productions, which, under this name, have carried a turbid stream of vice over the morals of mankind. They corrupt the taste, pollute the heart, debase the mind, immoralize the conduct. They throw prostrate the understanding, sensualize the affections, enervate the will, and bring all the high faculties of the soul into subjection to an imagination which they have first made wild, insane, and uncontrollable. They furnish no ideas, and generate a morbid, sickly sentimentalism, instead of a just and lovely sensibility. A wise man should despise them, and a good man should abhor them. Of late years they have, it is true, undergone a considerable reformation. The present EXTRAORDINARY FAVOURITE of the literary world, has indeed displaced, and sent into oblivion, a thousand miserable scribblers of love stories, who still however fling back at him, as they retire, the ancient taunt, “ Art thou too become as one of us ?" His works discover prodigious talent, astonishing information, and a power of delineating character truly wonderful. But what is their merit beyond a power to amuse ? Who ever wrote so much for so little real usefulness? They are still, in part, works of fiction, and in measure, exert the same unfriendly influence on the public mind and taste as other works of fiction do.
As to religious novels, they are rarely worth your attention. I should be sorry to see this species of writing become the general reading of the religious public. Symptoms of a craving appetite for this species of mental food have been very apparent of late. These are far more likely to lead young persons of pious education to read other kinds of novels, than they are to attract the readers of the latter to pious tales. They have already, in many cases, formed a taste for works of fiction, which is gratifying itself with far more exceptionable productions. They have become the harbingers in some families of works which, till they entered, would have been forbidden to pass the threshold.
It is very evident that the taste of the present age is strongly inclined for works of fiction. I am not unacquainted with the arguments by which such productions are justified, nor am I by any means prepared to pronounce a sweeping sentence of condemnation upon them. Genius is elicited and cherished by writing them; and taste is formed, corrected, and tified by reading them. Provided they are totally free from all unscriptural sentiments and anti-christian tendency, they form a recreation for the mind, and keep it from amusements of a worse character. I am also aware that they may be, and have been, made the vehicle of much instruction. Johnson tells us that this, amongst many other arts of instruction, has
been invented, that the reluctance against truth might be overcome; and as physic is given to children in confections, precepts have been hidden under a thousand appearances, that mankind may be bribed by a pleasure to escape destruction. In his beautiful allegory of Truth, Falsehood, and Fiction, he repre-, sents Truth as so repeatedly foiled in her contests with Falsehood, that in the anger of disappointment, she petitions Jupiter to be called back to her native skies, and leave mankind to the disorder and misery which they deserved, by submitting willingly to the usurpation of her antagonist. Instead of granting her request, he recommended her to consult the Muses by what methods she might obtain an easier reception, and reign without the toil of incessant war. It was then discovered, that she obstructed her own progress, by the severity of her aspect and the solemnity of her dictates; and that men would never willingly admit her, till they ceased to fear her; since, by giving themselves up to Falsehood, they seldom made
sacrifice of their ease or pleasure, because she took the state that was most engaging, and always suffered herself to be dressed and painted by Desire. The Muses wove in the loom of Pallas a loose and changeable robe, like that in which Falsehood captivated her admirers; with this they invested Truth, and named her Fiction. went out again to conquer with more success; for when she demanded entrance of the Passions, they often mistook her for Falsehood, and delivered up their charge; but when she had once taken possession, she was soon disVol. II.