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as having pofleffed “ historians, whom we may venture to place in comparison with any that the neighbouring nations can produce.” For this purpose he mentions Raleigh and Clarendon : and then proceeds as follows:

“ But none of our writers can, in my opinion, justly contest the superiority of Knolles, who in his history of the Turks, has displayed all the excellencies that narration can admit. His ftile, though somewhat obscured by time, and sometimes vitiated by false wit, is pure, nervous, elevated, and clear. There is nothing turgid in his dignity, nor fuperfluous in his copiousness.

“ Nothing could have funk this author in obfcurity, but the remoteness and barbarity of the people, whose story he relates. It seldom happens, that all circumstances concur to happinefs or fame. The nation, which produced this great historian, has the grief of seeing his genius employed upon a foreign and uninteresting subject ; and that writer, who might have secured perpetuity to his name, by a history of his own country, has exposed himself to the danger of oblivion, by recounting enterprizes and revolutions, of which none desire to be informed.”

Dr. Johnson had some propensity to paradoxes, particularly in matters of taste; and he

inay

be suspected, more than once in his literary carreer,

of

of having conceived the experiment, how far it was possible, by a grave and folemn air, to iinpofe upon the world the most contemptible mistakes**He had also a passion for all that was genuine in English, before rebellion, independ: ence and whiggifin had poisoned the national character: so that, in such an instance as that before us, he was very possibly himself the dupe of his own legerdemain.

Knolles's' style is so full of the grosiest folecisms and barbarism, and he is in this respect so much below any of the authors hitherto quoted, that I shall not condescend to explore his

performance, but take the first example that offers ; merely that fuperficiat readers may be put upon their guard, when they meet with the praises of an author, or a performance, that perhaps never was praised before, not to take 'every such eulogium in genuine payment.

“ This ciție Mahomet thought to haue taken vnprouided; and To vpon the suddaine to haue carried it; but was therein much deceiued, finding it strongly fortified and manned both by the Venetians and Scanderbeg. Where when he had spent there some time, and to his great lofle in vaine attempted the cittie, hee rise vpon the suddaine: and retiring into Epirvs, came and sat downe againe before Croid, of purpose by his suddaine comming to haue terrified the cit. tizens: and vainely persuaded, that he had left Scanderbeg in DIRRACHIVM, for that in the affailing thereof he had discouered many of Scanderbeg his men, and thereby supposed him to haue been there also; the greatest cause why he so suddenly rise and came to CROIA. At his first comming he offered great rewards and large priuiledges unto the cittizens, if they would forthwith yeeld vp their cittie ; otherwife he threatened ynto them all the calamities of warre, vowing neuer to depart thence before he had it: whereunto he receiued no other anfwere out of the cittie than was sent him by the mouth of the cannon, or brought him by many most braue fallies. Scanderbeg in the meane while continually molesting his

* The case of his parliamentary debates in the Gentle man's Magazine, and that of his fiétitious campaign between the Russians and Turks, are well known.

euery night falling into one quarter or another thereof." P. 402.

It is sufficiently evident from these extracts of the most considerable writers of the reign of queen Elizabeth, that our language at that time comparatively lay in a sort of chaos, and that no just notions were yet formed of fimplicity in diction, or precision of utterance; much less of the

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arrangement of clauses and construction of a period. The best authors wander at random, with no better compass to steer by, than each man's private and particular hypothesis and conception. Nay they are worse than this; for nothing is more evident, than each man's uncertainty and inconsistency with himself. Johnson complains of modern writers, as “ deviating towards a Gallićk structure and phraseology." But system, which is a thing of modern date, is a better defence against corruption, than can be afforded by conjecture and darkness. And he must have observed the old writers very inattentively, who does not know how extremely licentious they are in departing from the natural and philosophical order of their words.

Far be it from any friend of sound knowledge, and especially of philological science, to discourage the study of the old writers. But, while thus employed, let us well understand ourselves. Let us commend them for the treasures they really contain, and not for those of which they are destitute. Let us respect them for their talents; let us read them for the rise and progress of our language, not as a standard of what it ought to be.

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SECT. III.

Milton and Clarendon.

THE age which, next after that of quecn Elizabeth, has obtained the suffrage of the critics, is that of Charles the second. This was a period adorned with the writings of Milton, Dryden, Butler and Otway; and perhaps deserves above all others to be styled the golden age of English poetry. Fanciful observers found a certain resemblance between it and the age of Augustus, the literary glory of which has fometimes been represented as owing to this circumstance, that its wits were bred up in their youth in the lap of republican freedoin, and afterwards in their riper age received that polish which is to be derived from the fplendour and refinement of a court. Juft so, the scene amidst which the wits of King Charles's days passed their boyish years, was that of civil war, of regicide, or of unrestrain, ed republican speculation; which was fucceeded by the manners of a gay and licentious court, grafting the shoots of French refinement, upon the more vigorous and luxuriant plant of English

growth,

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