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No thought is beautiful which is not just, and no thought can be just which is not founded in truth, or at least in that which passes for such."
In mock-heroic poems, the use of the heathen mythology is not only excusable but graceful, because it is the design of such compositions to divert, by adapting the fabulous machines of the ancients to low subjects, and at the same time by ridiculing such kinds of machinery in modern writers. If any are of opinion, that there is a necessity of admitting these classical legends into our serious compositions, in order to give them a more poetical turn; I would recommend to their consideration the Pastorals of Mr. Phillips. One would have thought it impossible for this kind of poetry to have subsisted without fauns and satyrs, woodnymphs and water-nymphs, with all the tribe of rural deities. But we see he has given a new life, and a more natural beauty to this way of writing, by substituting in the plaee of these antiquated fables, the superstitious mythology which prevails among the shepherds of our own country.
Virgil and Homer might compliment their heroes, by interweaving the actions of deities with their achievements; but for a Christian author to write in the Pagan creed, to make prince Eugene a favourite of Mars, or to carry on a correspondence between Bellona and the Marshal de Villars, would be downright puerility, and unpardonable in a poet that is past sixteen.
revival of letters; and was to be expected in that state of things, when every poet was, in effect, a school-boy: when those agreeable stories of the Pagan gods, were new to most people, and the knowledge of them gave eo much distinction. But this puerile mode of writing would not have continued to Mr. Addison's days, if Mr. Waller had not made it his own, and get it off with the utmost grace and ingenuity.-H.
A Or at least in that which passes for such. This exception, which must be admitted, reduces the general rule of Bouhours and the French critics, from whom Mr. Addison took it, to just nothing: for what is that thought, which in the hands of an able writer, may not be so turned, as to pass for Sruth, with most readers 1-H.
b Without doubt “to subsist."--H.
It is want of sufficient elevation in a genius to describe realities, and place them in a shining light, that makes him have recourse to such trifling antiquated fables; as a man may write a fine description of Bacchus or Apollo, that does not know how to draw the character of any of his contemporaries.'
In order, therefore, to put a stop to this absurd practice, I shall publish the following edict, by virtue of that spectatorial authority with which I stand invested.
“Whereas the time of a general peace is, in all appearance, drawing near, being informed that there are several ingenious persons who intend to shew their talents on so happy an occasion, and being willing, as much as in me lies, to prevent that effusion of nonsense, which we have good cause to apprehend; I do hereby strictly require every person, who shall write on this subject, to remember that he is a Christian, and not to sacrifice his catechism to his poetry. In order to it, I do expect of him in the first place, to make his own poem without depending upon Phæbus for any part of it, or calling out for aid upon any one of the muses by name. I do likewise positively forbid the sending of Mercury with any particular message or dispatch relating to the peace, and shall by no means suffer Minerva to take upon her the shape of any plenipotentiary concerned in this great work. I do further declare, that I shall not allow the Destinies to have had a hand in the deaths of the several thousands who have been slain in the late war, being of opinion that all such deaths may be very well accounted for by the Christian system of powder and ball. I do therefore strictly forbid the Fates to cut the thread of man's life upon any pretence whatsoever, unless it be for the sake of the rhyme. And whereas I have good reason to fear, that Neptune will have a great deal of business on his hands, in several poems
'V. vol. i. p. 196, note.—G.
which we may now suppose are upon the anvil," I do also prohibit his appearance, unless it be done in metaphor, simile, or any very short allusion, and that even here he be not permitted to enter, but with great caution and circumspection. I desire that the same rule may be extended to his whole fraternity of heathen gods, it being my design to condemn every poem to the flames in which Jupiter thunders, or exercises any other act of authority which does not belong to him : in short, I expect that no Pagan agent shall be introduced, or any fact related which a man cannot give credit to with a good conscience. Provided always, that nothing herein contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to several of the female poets in this nation, who shall be still left in full possession of their gods and goddesses, in the same manner as if this paper had never been written.”
No. 529. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 6.
Singula quæque locum teneant sortita decenter.
Hor. Ars Poet. 92.
Upon the hearing of several late disputes concerning rank and precedence, I could not forbear amusing myself with some observations, which I have made upon the learned world, as to this great particular. By the learned world I here mean at large, all those who are any way concerned in works of literature, whether in the writing, printing, or repeating part. To begin with the writers; I have observed that the author of a folio, in all compa.
* Upon the stocks, had been better in this place for an obvious reason.-H.
nies and conversations, sets himself above the author of a quarto ; the author of a quarto above the author of an octavo; and so on, by a gradual descent and subordination, to an author in twentyfours. This distinction is so well observed, that in an assembly of the learned, I have seen a folio-writer place himself in an elbow-chair, when the author of a duodecimo has, out of a just deference to his superior quality, seated himself upon a squab. In a word, authors are usually ranged in company after the same manner as their works are upon a shelf.
The most minute pocket-author, hath beneath him the writers of all pamphlets, or works that are only stitched. As for a pamphleteer, he takes place of none but of the authors of single sheets, and of that fraternity who publish their labours on certain days, or on every day of the week. I do not find that the precedency among the individuals, in this latter class of writers, is yet settled.*
For my own part, I have had so strict a regard to the ceremonial which prevails in the learned world, that I never presumed to take place of a pamphleteer till my daily papers were gathered into those two first volumes, which have already appeared.' After which I naturally jumped over the heads not only of all pamphleteers, but of every octavo writer in Great-Britain, that had written but one book. I am also informed by my bookseller, that six octavos have at all times been looked upon as an equivalent to a folio, which I take notice of the rather, because I would not have the learned world surprised, if, after the publication of half-a-dozen volumes, I take my place accordingly. When my scattered forces are thus rallied, and reduced into regular bodies, I flatter myself that I shall make no despicable figure at the head of them.
Nov. 6, 1712. The two first volumes of the Spectator were now published. Addison does not here acknowledge himself concerned in the Tatler, or allude to it: but all the four volumes of the lucubrations of J. Bickerstaff were at this time delivered to the subscribers. See No. 531, ad finem.-C.
* 18 yet settled. Humorously, perhaps modestly, said. But, there was no doubt, in the writer's time, about that precedency: at least, there can be none now.-H.
Whether these rules, which have been received time out of mind in the commonwealth of letters, were not originally established with an eye to our paper manufacture, I shall leave to the discussion of others, and shall only remark further in this place, that all printers and booksellers take the wall of one another, according to the above-mentioned merits of the authors to whom they respectively belong.
I come now to that point of precedency which is settled among the three learned professions,' by the wisdom of our laws. I need not here take notice of the rank which is allotted to every doctor in each of these professions, who are all of them, though not so high as knights, yet a degree above squires; this last order of men being the illiterate body of the nation, are consequently thrown together into a class below the three learned professions. I mention this for the sake of several rural squires, whose reading does not rise so high as to the present state of England, and who are often apt to usurp that precedency which by the laws of their country is not due to them. Their want of learning, which has planted them in this station, may in some measure extenuate their misdemeanour; and our professors ought to par. don them when they offend in this particular, considering that they are in a state of ignorance, or, as we usually say, do not know their right-hand from their left.
There is another tribe of persons who are retainers to the
In some universities, that of Dublin in particular, they have doctors of music, who take rank after the doctors of the three learned professions, and above esquires.-C.