« PreviousContinue »
was fixed upon a bath; and contained an im precation in the following terms, against any
one who should attempt to remove the building:
QVISQVIS. HOC. SVSTVLERIT.
The thought is conceived with great deli and juftnefs; as there cannot, perhaps, be a fharper calamity to a generous mind, than to fee itself ftand fingle amidst the ruins of whatever rendered the world moft defirable.
INSTANCES of the fort I am lamenting, while the impreffions remain fresh upon the mind, are sufficient to damp the gayest hopes, and chill the warmeft ambition. When one fees a person in the full bloom of life, thus destroyed by one fudden blast, one cannot but confider all the diftant schemes of mankind as the highest folly.
It is amazing indeed that a creature fuch as man, with fo many memorials around him of the fhortnefs of his duration, and who cannot infure to himself even the next moment, should yet plan defigns which
run far into futurity. The bufinefs however of life must be carried on, and and it is neceffary for the purposes of human affairs, that mankind fhould refolutely act upon very precarious contingencies. Too much reflection, therefore, is as inconfistent with the appointed measures of our station, as too little and there cannot be a less defirable turn of mind, than one that is influenced by an over-refined philosophy. At least it is by confiderations of this fort, that I en'deavor to call off my thoughts from pursuing too earnestly those reasonings, which the occafion of this letter is apt to fuggeft. This use, however, one may juftly make of the prefent accident, that, whilft it contracts the circle of friendship, it should render it fo much the more valuable to us who yet walk within its limits. Adieu.
May 4, 1740.
the ingenious piece you communicated to me, requires any farther touches of your pencil; I must acknowledge the truth to be, what you are inclined to fufpect, that my friend hip has impofed upon my judgment. But tho in the prefent inftance your delicacy feems far too refined, yet in general, I must agree that works agree with you, of the most permanent kind, are not the effects of a lucky moment, nor ftruck out at a fingle heat. The beft. performances, indeed, have generally coft the most labor; and that ease which is fo effential. to fine writing, has feldom been attained without repeated and fevere corrections: Ludentis fpeciem dabit et torquebitur, is a motto that may be applied, I believe, to moft fuccefsful authors of genius. With as much facility as the numbers of the natural Prior feem to have flowed from him, they were the refult (if I am not mifinformed) of much application: and a friend of mine, X 2
who undertook to transcribe one of the nobleft performances of the finest genius that this, or perhaps any age can boast, has often affured me, that there is not a single line, as it is now published, which stands in conformity with the original manuscript. The truth is, every fentiment has its peculiar expreffion, and every word its precise place, which do not always immediately present themselves, and generally demand frequent trials before they can be properly adjusted: not to mention the more important difficulties, which neceffarily occur in fettling the plan and regulating the higher parts which compose the structure of a finished work.
Those indeed, who know what pangs it cofts even the most fertile genius to be delivered of a juft and regular production, might be inclined, perhaps, to cry out with the most antient of authors, Oh! that mine adverfary had written a book! A writer of refined tafte has the continual mortification to find himself incapable of taking entire poffeffion of that ideal beauty, which warms and fills his imagination. His conceptions
ceptions still rise above all the powers of his art, and he can but faintly copy out thofe images of perfection, which are impreffed upon his mind. Never was any thing, fays Tully, more beautiful than the Venus of Apelles, or the Jove of Phidias ; yet were they by no means equal to those. high notions of beauty which animated the geniuses of those wonderful artists. In the fame manner, he obferves, the great ma fters of oratory imaged to themselves a certain perfection of eloquence, which they could only contemplate in idea, but in vain attempted to draw out in expreffion. Perhaps no author ever perpetuated his repu tation, who could write up to the full standard of his own judgment: and I am perfuaded that he, who upon a furvey of his compofitions can with entire compla cency pronounce them good, will hardly find the world join with him in the fame favorable fentence.
THE moft judicious of all poets, the in imitable Virgil, used to resemble his productions to thofe of that animal, who, agreably to the notions of the antients,