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purpose serious; nevertheless, in coloring and fullness of fancy, Camoens here surpasses even Ariosto, whose garland he so venturously aspired to tear away. But Camoens does not confine himself to Gama and the discovery of India, or even to the sway and achievements of the Portuguese of his age; whatever of chivalrous, great, beautiful, or noble, could be gathered from the traditions of his country, has been inweaved and embodied into the web of his poem. It embraces the whole poetry of his nation : among all the heroic poets of ancient or of modern times, there has never, since Homer, been any one so intensely national, or so loved and honored by his countrymen, as Camoens. It seeins as if the national feelings of the Portuguese, excluded from every other subject of meditation by the degraded condition of their empire, had centered and reposed themselves in the person of this poet-considered by them, and worthy of being considered by us, as supplying the place of a whole troop of poets, and as being in himself a complete literature to his country.'
The difference between the complexion of this criticism and that of Blair, is too palpable to escape notice. Every one must perceive, that while Blair was contemplating the form and habiliments, Schlegel was enthusiastically inspecting and anatomizing the soul of the poem; and while Blair was satisfied with the epic plan and its general execution, Schlegel was in a sort of ecstacy in view of the masterly delineation of human nature, as diversified by the national peculiarities of the Portuguese.
Enough has been said in illustration of our remark, that a thorough knowledge of the philosophy of human nature, is an important qualification of a good critic. Refinement of taste united with this, implies an acquaintance with general history, and an experience in analyzing works of literature and eloquence. Upon these topics it would be easy to enlarge. But we pass on to the consideration of another requisite in criticism—good temper.
It was observed by Shenstone, that “good taste and good nature, are inseparably united.” It may be, that there can be no “good taste" without “good nature;” but do not some men of good taste evidently criticise with ill nature? Let a man be out of humor from any cause, let him be vexed or irritated, and he is very far from being in a mood for candid, impartial criticism. Was Byron in a mood for such criticism,
when he wrote his “ English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers?" To what but an habitual morbidness of temperament, or perhaps it may be termed a jealous pride of literary character--a dogmatical idiosyncrasy-can be attributed many of the blistering and tormenting strictures of Johnson ?
We here see the reason why authors are frequently the very worst critics.
Few there are, who are not teinpted to undervalue the works of competitors, and to utter “faint praise,” at best, even when the voice of the community is loud in reiterating the notes of panegyric. When an author takes the pen of the critic, he is liable to remember some animadversion, just or unjust, upon himself; and as
“No man e'er feels the halter draw,
he determines to make "company” for his “misery," and wreaks his resentment upon innocence as well as guilt. An amiable temper may be turned into the gall of bitterness. Some chapters in the literary history of Addison, Pope, and many others, cannot be remembered without a mortifying sense of the weakness of our nature. Authors have so often showed themselves to great disadvantage as critics, that the example should be an effectual admonition to the whole fraternity Envy, jealousy, chagrin, ambition, are all dangerous guides in the field of criticism. Let no man speak of a competitor, or write a review, unless he has good nature in full exercise, even when his words must be sharper than a two edged sword. Let every man "wipe his heart," as well as his eyes, before he commences the operation. “ Honor to whom honor is due,” is a good maxim ; and another maxim equally good, but more difficult in the observance, is this—" In honor, preferring one another." When a good taste has its persect work, it will be in love with excellence, wherever it appears. It will find a luxury of gratification in the beauties of a performance, and never be grinning a contemptuous (and contemptible) exultation at the discovery of some petty" spot” upon a disk of bright
Examples are not wanting, which are worthy of the imitation of orators and writers, in respect to the proper spirit of criticism. How ingenuous the testimony of Æschines to the superiority of his great antagonist, in the celebrated conflict, respecting the golden crown—" Quid si
" He was my
ipsum audissetis ?" How admirable Cicero's treatment of Hortensius! Par nobile fratrum. How the “ father of his country mourned the untimely decease of his illustrious rival! His heart, to borrow the pathetic imagery of our own Ames, when bewailing the death of Hamilton, grew liquid as he wrote, and he poured it out like water. companion in glorious toil. With him it was more honorable to contend, than never to have a rival.” The transactions of modern literature can furnish no happier illustration of critical amiableness and generosity, than Coleridge's animadversions upon the poetry of Wordsworth.
The last qualification of a good critic, which we shall specify, is a pure moral sensibility. The sentiments of virtue and religion, which more or less characterize every production in literature, hold a prominent place among the legitimate objects of criticism. The purest of all beauty is moral beauty, and the purest of moral beauty is the beauty of holiness. Whatever else a critic may neglect to notice, it is a duty which he owes to his country, to the world, and to God, to scan the moral tendency of every work which passes under his review. No matter how much of genius, of originality of conception, of elegance or energy of style, there may be ; no matter how much of truth to human nature, in the delineations of character; if a work breathes not throughout a healthful spirit of moral sentiment, its deformity should be exposed. Genius cannot atone for iniquity. The popular taste may be as corrupt as that of the “ pit” of the theatre, or of perdition ; yet the man who writes for the public is responsible, not at a tribunal of depravity, but of uncompromising purity.
Tried by the standard of wholesome moral influence, how few are the works of polite literature, which are entitled to the seal of approval! It was with
* Thoughts that lie too deep for tears,"
that we closed our first perusal of Foster's admirable “Essay on the aversion of men of taste to evangelical religion." Who that loves genius much, but Christianity more, has not agonized at the perversion and degradation of " talents angelbright?” How seldom can we find a "work of taste," which has been
Take the most popular productions of our times, the “Waverly Romances.” With all that is admirable and instructive in the sketches of human life and character, what is the moral influence ? Is not every thing connected with the hallowed truths of the Bible, and the sacred vocation of the ministers of Christianity, so treated as to excite emotions of the ludicrous ? That such was the design of the illustrious author, we are not prepared to believe. But if the prevailing moral impression from these far-famed volumes is favorable to reverent views of holy things, then we labor under an unfortunate mistake. If we are correct in our judgment in regard to an author, who, in most respects, is so ceptionable, and whose rare gists we are not among the last to acknowledge with entire cordiality, what language of condemnation is warranted by the obscenities and blasphemies of some who preceded, and some who have followed Sir Walter Scott, in the department of fiction? “If the comedies of Congreve," said Lord Kames, " did not rack him with remorse in his last moments, he must have been lost to all sense of virtue.” The remark admits of
very extensive application.
Not to dwell longer upon a theme, which is painfully copious, we trust that no one of our readers will question the duty of the critic, in reference to the moral character and tendency of the works which he reviews. And if it be his duty to hold up to public abhorrence every sentiment, which is at variance with a feeling of profound veneration for God, and that religion which has been washed in the blood of Christ crucified, how important is it, that he possess a moral sensibility, a moral taste, keenly alive to every profanation of the beauty of virtue, and the majesty of holiness.
The critic may derive both pleasure and profit from the practice of his art. He may experience a peculiar enjoyment from the discovery of merit which escapes the common eye, A habit of contemplating the innumerable forms of excellence and defect, is naturally suited to generate a spirit of candor, and neutralize or destroy the influence of selfishness and vanity. It is too common for men in early life to suppose that their own reputation for genius and learning, is depending upon their ability to perceive imperfections in the workmanship of others : and when they have found a real or imaginary defect, they proclaim it with high zest, as a triumphant proof of their own pre-eminence. The true spirit of
criticism, as we have already intimated, is at war with all such captiousness. The farther we advance in life, the more occasions do we find to regret the rash judgments of previous days. And the older we grow, if we continue to study the works of intellect and taste, without yielding to any untoward influences, the more humble is our estimation of ourselves, and the more candid and generous is our estimation of others.
At the present time, inaccuracy in composition is too prevalent to allow us to say, that
" Ten censure wrong, for one that writes amiss.”
But we must permit every man who has acquired a knowledge of the principles and rules of a just rhetoric, to cherish some confidence in his own critical opinions. If his productions are censured, he is at liberty to withhold his acquiescence, until sound reasons are offered in support of the strictures. But he may often show a noble magnanimity by entire silence, when he would lose much by a sharp reply to animadversions or insinuations. There is neither perfection in literature nor infallibility in criticism. With a respectful deference to the judgments of others, and a modest regard for ourselves, we may adopt the sentiment of Horace,
“Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri.”
ARGUMENT FROM NATURE, FOR THE DIVINE EX,
Astronomy and General Physics considered with reference to
Natural Theology. By the Rev. William Whewell, M. A. Fellow and Tutor of Trinity College, Cambridge. Philadelphia : Carey, Lea & Blanchard.
With the history of the Bridgewater treatises, of which this is the third, our readers are probably acquainted. Their