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was more in vogue than a Gray. He that treats of fashionable follies, and the topics of the day, that describes present persons and recent events, finds many readers whose understandings and whose passions he gratifies.
Where, then, according to the question proposed at the beginning of this Essay, shall we with justice be authorized to place our admired Pope? Not, assuredly, in the same rank with Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton ; however justly we may applaud the Eloisa and Rape of the Lock. But, considering the correctness, elegance, and utility of his works, the weight of sentiment, and the knowledge of man they contain, we may venture to assign him a place next to Milton, and just above Dryden. Yet, to bring our minds steadily to make this decision, we must forget, for a moment, the divine Music Ode of Dryden ; and may perhaps then be compelled to confess that, though Dryden be the greater genius, yet Pope is the better artist.
The preference here given to POPE above other modern English poets, it must be remembered, is founded on the excellencies of his works in general, and taken all together ; for there are parts and passages in other modern authors—in Young and in Thomson, for instance-equal to any of Pope; and he has written nothing in a strain so truly sublime as the Bard of Gray.
ELIZABETH MONTAGU, 1720-1800.
ELIZABETH Robinson, daughter of Matthew Robinson, Esq., was born at York, on the 2d of October, 1720. When she was about seven years old, her parents removed to Cambridge, where she derived great advantage in the progress of her education from Dr. Conyers Middleton, whom her grandmother had married as her second husband. Her uncommon sensibility and acuteness of understanding, as well as her extraordinary beauty as a child, rendered her an object of great notice and admiration in the society at Cambridge, and Pr. Middleton was in the habit of requiring from her an account of the learned conversations at which in his society she was frequently present; saying that, though she might but imperfectly understand them then, she would in future derive great benefit from the habit of attention inculcated by this practice.
In 1742, she was married to Edward Montagu, Esq., member of Parliament for Huntingdon. In three years, however, he died, leaving her the whole of his estate, (for she had no children,) and thus she was enabled to gratify her taste for study and literary society to the fullest extent. In 1769, she published her “Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakspeare, compared with the Greek
* Sce his life in “Compendium of English Literature," p. 189.
and French Dramatic Poets; with some Remarks upon the Misrepresentations of Voltaire." This work soon passed through many editions, and gave her a high rank in the literary world. The praise which Cowper and Warton have bestowed upon it is decisive as to its merits. “The learning," says Cowper, " the good sense, the sound judgment, and the wit displayed in it, fully justify not only my compliment, but all compliments that either have been already paid to her talents, or shall be paid hereafter ;" and Warton calls it “the most elegant and judicious piece of criticism which the present age has produced."! This essay is not an elaborate exposition of the obscure passages of Shakspeare, but a comprehensive survey of the sublimity of his genius, of his profound knowledge of human nature, and of the wonderful resources of his imagination.
Soon after the publication of this essay, she opened her house, Portman-square, in London, to the “Blue Stocking Club,"? and was intimate with the most emiDent literary men of ber day. In private life she was an example of liberality and benevolence. Her hand was always extended to the protection of genius and the relief of distress. Her magnificent inansion was the resort of the most distinguished characters of her time; and “all were emulous to testify their esteem, and to pay their homage to the endowments of her mind and the amiable qualities of her heart." It was at her mansion, too, that an annual entertainment was given, on May-day, to all the climbing-boys and chimney-sweepers' apprentices in the metropolis. Though in the latter part of her life she lost the use of her eyes, she retained her mental faculties to the last, and died August 25, 1800.
The works of Mrs. Montagu consist of the Essay on Shakspeare before mentioned, and four volumes of epistolary correspondence held with most of the emi. pent literary men of the day. These letters do great credit both to her head and heart; they are written in an easy and perspicuous style; are filled with judicious and pertinent reflections upon the passing events and the great men of the times; and, with her Essay on Shakspeare, give her no mean rank among English authors. If not a profound critic, she was certainly an acute and ingenious one, possessing judgment and taste as well as learning; and if not of such versatile talents as her namesake, Lady Mary Wortley, she is an example of much bigher moral purity both in her writings and character. Her conversational powers were of a truly superior order ;-strong, just, clear, and often eloquent. Her form was stately, and her manners dignified; and her face is said to have retained strong remains of beauty through life.
History of English Poetry, i. lvii. Since Warton thus wrote, however, we have had criticisms on SI peare of a much hicher order-Ruch as those of Richardson, Schlegel, Jeffrey, Vacauley, Campbell, Drake. Hazlitt, Mrs. Jameson, and others.
2 - Montagu Place" in this square derives its name from her residence here.
A VIEW OF LIFE. To the Duchess of Portland.
MADAM-As your grace tenders my peace of mind, you will be glad to hear I am not so angry as I was. I own I was much moved in spirit at hearing you neglected your health, but since you have had advice, there is one safe step taken. As for me, I have swallowed the weight of an apothecary in medicine, and what I am the better, except more patient and less credulous, I know not. I have learnt to bear my infirmities, and not to trust to the skill of physicians for curing them. I endeavor to drink deep of philosophy, and be wise when I cannot be merry, easy when I cannot be glad, content with what cannot be mended, and patient where there is no redress. The mighty can do no more, and the wise seldom do as much. You see I am in the main content with myself, though many would quarrel with such an insignificant, idle, inconsistent person ; but I am resolved to make the best all circumstances around me, that this short life may not be half lost in pains,“ well remembering and applying, the necessity of dying." Between the periods of birth and burial I would fain insert a little happiness, a little pleasure, a little peace : to-day is ours, yesterday is past, and to-morrow may never come. I wonder people can so much forget death, when all we see before us is but succession ; minute succeeds to minute, season to season, summer dies as winter comes. The dial marks the change of hour, every night brings death-like sleep, and morning seems a resurrection ; yet while all changes and decays, we expect no alteration; unapt to live, unready to die, we lose the present and seek the future, ask much for what we have not, thank Providence but little for what we have; our youth has no joy, our middle age no quiet, our old age no ease, no indulgence; ceremony is the tyrant of this day, fashion of the other, business of the next: little is allowed to freedom, happiness, and contemplation, the adoration of our Creator, the admiration of his works, and the inspection of ourselves. But why should I trouble your grace with these reflections ? What my little knowledge can suggest, you must know better: what my short experience has shown, you must have better observed. I am sure any thing is more acceptable to you than news and compliments; so I always give your grace the present thoughts of my heart.
CHARACTER OF THE MISER.
To Mrs. Donnellan.
DEAR MADAM—I had the pleasure of your letter yesterday; it made me very happy. If my friends at a distance did not keep my affections awake, I should be lulled into a state of insensibility,
divided as I am from all I love. Not a countenance I delight in to joy me, nor any conversation I like to entertain me, I am left wholly to myself and my books, and both, I own, too little to possess me entirely. What's Cicero to me, or I to Cicero? as Hamlet would say; and for myself, though this same little insig. nificant self be very dear unto me, yet I have not used to make it my sole object of love and delight. Indeed I find my understanding so poor, it cannot live without borrowing. I mistrust my opinion, doubt my judgment, but have no one to set me right in them. I want just such a companion as you would be, and how happy would your kind compliance with that wish make me, if the good old folks here could accommodate you; but they are so fearful of strangers I know it is impossible to persuade them to it. They are not very fine people; they have a small estate, and help it out with a little farming; are very busy and careful, and the old man's cautiousness has dwindled into penurįousness, so that he eats in fear of waste and riot, sleeps with the dread of thieves, denies himself every thing, for fear of wanting any thing. Riches give him no plenty, increase no joy, prosperity no ease; he has the curse of covetousness—to want the property of his neighbors while he dare not touch his own; the harpy Avarice drives him from his own meat; the sum of his wisdom and his gains will be by living poor to die rich. To want what one has not, is a necessity must be submitted to; but to want what one has, is strange policy. I would fain write the history of a miser upon his monument, as : “Here lies one who lived unloved, died unlamented; denied plenty to himself, assistance to his friends, and relief to the poor; starved his family, oppressed his neighbors, plagued himself to gain what he could not enjoy; at last, Death, more merciful to him than he to himself, released him from care, and his family from want; and here he lies with the muckworm he imitated, and the dirt he loved, in fear of a resurrection, lest his heirs should have spent the money he left behind, having laid up no treasure where moth and rust do not corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal.'”
SHAKSPEARE AND HIS TIMES.
Shakspeare wrote at a time when learning was tinctured with pedantry, wit was unpolished, and mirth ill-bred. The court of Elizabeth spoke a scientific jargon, and a certain obscurity of style is his merit, that the more just and refined the taste of the nation is become, the more he has increased in reputation. He was approved by his own age, admired by the next, and is revered and almost adored by the present. His merit is disputed by little wits, and his errors are the jests of little critics; but there has not been a great poet, or great critic, since his time, who has not spoken of him with the highest veneration, Mr. Voltaire alone excepted; whose translations often, whose criticisms still oftener, prove he did not perfectly understand the words of the author; and therefore it is certain he could not enter into his meaning. He comprehended enough to perceive that Shakspeare was unobservant of some established rules of composition ; the felicity with which he performs what no rules can teach, escapes him. Will not an intelligent spectator admire the prodigious structures of Stonehenge, because he does not know by what laws of mechanics they were raised ? Like them, our author's works will remain for ever the greatest monuments of the amazing force of nature, which we ought to view, as we do other prodigies, with an attention to and admiration of their stupendous parts, and proud irregularity of greatness.
Essay on Shakspeare.
SHAKSPEARE'S TRAGIC POWER.
If the mind is to be medicated by the operations of pity and terror, surely no means are so well adapted to that end as a strong and lively representation of the agonizing struggles that precede, and the terrible horrors that follow, wicked actions. Other poets thought they had sufficiently attended to the moral purpose of the drama by making the Furies pursue the perpetrated crime. Our author waves their bloody daggers in the road to guilt, and demonstrates that, so soon as a man begins to hearken to ill suggestions, terrors environ and fears distract him. Tenderness and conjugal love combat in the breasts of a Medea and a Herod, in their purposed vengeance. Personal affection often weeps on the theatre, while Jealousy or Revenge whets the bloody knife : but Macbeth's emotions are the struggles of conscience; his agonies are the agonies of remorse. They are lessons of justice, and warnings to inno