« PreviousContinue »
was fuppofed to bring her young into the world, a mere rude and fhapeless mafs: he was obliged to retouch them again and again, he acknowledged, before they acquired their proper form and beauty. Accordingly we are told, that after having pent eleven years in compofing his Æneid, he intended to have fet apart three more for the revifal of that glorious performance. But being prevented by his laft fickness from giving those finishing touches, which his exquifite judgment conceived to be fill neceffary, he directed his friends Tucca and Varius to burn the nobleft poem that ever appeared in the Roman language. In the fame fpirit of delicacy Mr. Dryden tells us, that had he taken more time in tranflating this author, he might poffibly have fucceeded better; but never, he affures us, could he have fucceeded fo well as to have fatisfied himself.
In a word, Hortenfus, I agree with you that there is nothing more difficult than to fill up up the character of an author, who propofes to raise a juft and lasting admiration ; who is not contented with thofe little tranfient flashes of applause, which attend the ordinary
ordinary race of writers, but confiders only how he may fhine out to pofterity; who extends his views beyond the present generation, and cultivates thofe productions which are to florifh in future ages. What Sir William Temple obferves of poetry, may be applied to every other work where taste and imagination are concerned: "It "requires the greatest contraries to com
pofe it a genius both penetrating and "folid; an expreffion both strong and de«licate. There must be a great agitation "of mind to invent, a great calm to judge "and correct: there must be upon the "fame tree, and at the fame time, both "flower and fruit." But tho, I know you would not value yourself upon any performance, wherein these very opposite and very fingular qualities were not confpicuous; yet I must remind you at the fame time, that when the file ceases to polish, it muft neceffarily weaken. You will remember therefore, that there is a medium between the immoderate caution of that orator who was three olympiads in writing à single oration; and the extravagant expedition of that poet, whofe funeral pile was
composed of his own numberless produetions. I am, &c.
To PALEMO N.
WRITE this while Cleora is angling by my fide, under the fhade of a fpreading elm that hangs over the banks of our river. A nightingale, more harmonious even than Strada's, is ferenading us from a hawthorn bush which fmiles with all the gaiety of youth and beauty; while
Fanning their odorif'rous wings, difpenfe Native perfumes, and whisper whence they stole Thofe balmy spoils. MILT.
WHILST I am thus enjoying the innocent luxury of this vernal delight, I look back upon thofe fcenes of turbulence wherein I was once engaged, with more than ordinary diftafte, and despise myself for ever having entertained fo mean a thought as to be rich and great. One of our monarchs
ufed to fay, "that he looked upon those to "be the happiest men in the nation, whose "fortune had placed them in the country, "above a high conftable, and below the "trouble of a juftice of peace." It is in a mediocrity of this happy kind that I here pass my life: with a fortune far above the neceffity of engaging in the drudgery of business; and with defires much too humble to have any relish for the fplendid baits of ambition.
You must not, however, imagine that I affect the Stoic, or pretend to have eradicated all my paffions: the fum of my philofophy amounts to no more than to cherish none but fuch as I may eafily and innocently gratify, and to banish all the rest as fo many bold intruders upon my repose. I endeavor to practise the maxim of a French poet, by confidering every thing that is not within my poffeffion as not worth having: pour m'affûrer le feul bien
Que l'on doit estimer au monde,
Tout ce que je n'ai pas, je le compte pour rien.
Is it not poffible, Palemon, to reconcile you to thefe unafpiring fentiments, and to lower your flight to the humble level of ge
nuine happiness? Let me at least prevail with you to fpare a day or two from the certamina divitiarum, (as Horace I think calls them) froin thofe fplendid contests in which you are engaged, to take a view of the fort of life we lead in the country. If there is any thing wanting to complete the happinefs I here find, it is that you are fo feldom a witness to it. I am, &c.
"July 3, 1744.
THE beauties of ftyle feem to be gene
rally confidered as below the attention both of an author and a reader. I know not therefore, whether I may venture to acknowledge, that among the numberless graces of your late performance, I particularly admired that ftrength and elegance with which you have enforced and adorned
the nobleft fentiments.
THERE was a time however (and it was a period of the trueft refinements) when an