« FöregåendeFortsätt »
are put into a violent tumult. I grow as red in the face as a drunkard, and am obliged to quit my work.” When Malebranche first took up Descartes on Man, the germ and origin of his philosophy, he was obliged frequently to interrupt his reading by a violent palpitation of the heart. When the first idea of the Essay on the Arts and Sciences rushed on the mind of Rousseau, it occasioned such a feverish agitation that it approached to a delirium.
This delicious inebriation of the imagination occasioned the ancients, who sometimes perceived the effects, to believe it was not short of divine inspiration. Fielding says, “I do not doubt but that the most pathetic and affecting scenes have been writ with tears.” He perhaps would have been pleased to have confirmed his observation by the following circumstances. The tremors of Dryden, after having written an Ode, a circumstance tradition has accidentally handed down, were not unusual with him; in the preface to his Tales he tells us, that in translating Homer he found greater pleasure than in Virgil; but it was not a pleasure without pain; the continual agitation of the spirits must needs be a weakener to any constitution, especially in age, and many pauses are required for refreshment betwixt the heats. In writing the ninth scene of the second act of the Olympiad, Metastasio found himself in tears; an effect which after
wards, says Dr. Burney, proved very contagious. It was on this occasion that that tender poet commemorated the circumstance in the following interesting sonnet:
SONNET FROM METASTASIO.
Scrivendo l'Autore in Vienna l'anno 1733 la sua Olimpiade vented too by himself, could raise so true a passion, he reflected how little reasonable and solid a foundation the others had, which so frequently agitated us in this state of our existence.
si senti commosa fino alle lagrime nell' esprimere la divisione di due teneri amici: e meravigliandosi che un falso, e da lui inventato disastro, potesse cagionargli una si vera passione, si fece a riflettere quanto poco ragionevole e solido fondamento possano aver le altre che soglion frequentamente agitarci, nel corso di nostra vita.
SOGNI e favole io fingo, e pure in carte
In 1733, the Author composing his Olympiad, felt himself
suddenly moved, even to tears, in expressing the separation of two tender Lovers. Surprised that a fictitious grief, in
Fables and dreams I feign; yet though but verse
The dreams and fables that adorn this scroll,
While GENUINE TEARS for FANCIED SORROWS roll.
Is wisdom; and the agitated mind,
With love and rage, a tranquil hour can find.
Are fictions : but my FEARS and HOPES I deem Are FABLES all; deliriously I live,
And life's whole course is one protracted dream. Eternal power! when shall I wake to rest
This wearied brain on Truth's immortal breast ?
The censure which the Shakespeare of novelists has incurred for the tedious proerastination and the minute details of his fable ; his slow unfolding characters, and the slightest gestures of his
personages, is extremely unjust; for is it not evident that we could not have his peculiar excellences without these attendant defects? When characters are very fully delineated, the narrative must be suspended. Whenever the narra
tive is rapid, which so much delights superficial readers, the characters cannot be very minutely featured; and the writer who aims to instruct (as Richardson avowedly did) by the glow and eloquence of his feelings, must often sacrifice to this, his local descriptions. Richardson himself has given us the principle that guided him in composing. He tells us, “ If I give speeches and conversations, I ought to give them justly; for the humours and characters of persons cannot be known unless I repeat what they say, and their munner of saying."
Foreign critics have been more just to Richardson than many of his own countrymen. I shall notice the opinions of three celebrated writers, D'Alembert, Rousseau, and Diderot.
D'Alembert was a great mathematician. His literary taste was extremely cold: he was not worthy of reading Richardson. The volumes, if he ever read them, must have fallen from his hands. The delicate and subtile turnings, those folds of the human heart, which require so nice a touch, was a problem which the mathematician could never solve. There is no other demonstration in the human heart, but an appeal to its feelings; and what are the calculating feelings of an arithmetician of lines and curves? He therefore declared of Richardson that « La Nature est bonne à imiter, mais non pas jusqu'au l'ennui."
But thus it was not with the other two congenial geniuses ! The fervent opinion of Rousseau must be familiar to the reader ; but Diderot, in his eloge on Richardson, exceeds even Rousseau in the enthusiasm of his feelings. I extract some of the most interesting passages,
Of Clarissa he says, “ I yet remember with delight the first time it came into my hands. I was in the country. How deliciously was I affected! At every moment I saw my happiness abridged by a page. I then experienced the same sensations those feel who have long lived with one they love, and are on the point of separation. At the close of the work I seemed to remain deserted.”
The impassioned Diderot then breaks forth; “O Richardson! thou singular genius in my eyes! thou shalt form my reading in all times. If forced by sharp necessity, my friend falls into indigence; if the mediocrity of my fortune is not sufficient to bestow on my children the necessary cares for their education, I will sell
my books,---but thou shalt remain ! yes, thou shalt rest in the same class with MOSES, HOMER, Eu. RIPIDES, and SOPHOCLES, to be read alternately.
“Oh Richardson, I dare pronounce that the most veritable history is full of fictions, and thy romances are full of truths. History paints some individuals; thou paintest the human species. -History attributes to some individuals what