Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

I marked with particular attention the several offer. ings of the most eminent English writers. Chaucer gave up his obscenity, and then delivered his works to Dryden, to clear them from the rubbish that incumbered them. Dryden executed his talk with great address, “and," as Addison fays of Virgil in his Georgics, “ toiled about his dung with an air of gracefulness :" he not only repaired the injuries of time, but threw in a thousand new graces. He then advanced towards the altar himself, and delivered up a large packet, which contained many plays, and some poems. The packet had a label affixed to it, which bore this inscription, “ To Poverty.”

Shakespeare carried to the altar a long firing of puns, marked " The Taste of the Age,” a small parcel of bombast, and a pretty large bundle of incorrectness. Notwithstanding the ingenious air with which he made this offering, some officiates at the altar accused him of concealing certain pieces, and mentioned the London Prodigal, Sir Thomas Cromwell, The Yorkfhire Tragedy, &c. The poet replied, “ that as those

pieces were unworthy to be preserved, he should see " them consumed to alhes with great pleasure : but " that he was wholly innocent of their original." The two chief priests interposed in this dispute, and dismissed the poet with many compliments; Longinus observing, that the pieces in quellion could not possi. bly be his, for that the failings of Shakespeare were like those of Homer, " whose genius, whenever it “ subsided, might be compared to the ebbing of the ocean, which left a mark

upon its shores, to shew to “ what a height it was sometimes carried.” Aristotle concurred in this opinion, and added, “ that although

66 Shake

[ocr errors]

“ Shakespeare was quite ignorant of that exa& econo. “my of the stage, which is so remarkable in the " Greek writers, yet the mere strengh of his genius “ had in many points carried him infinitely beyond 16 them."

Milton gave up a few errors in his Paradise Lost, and the facrifice was attended with great decency by Addison. Otway and Rowe threw their comedies upon the altar, and Beaumont and Flecher the two last acts of many of their pieces. They were followed by Tom Durfey, Etherege, Wycherley, and feveral other Dramatic writers, who made fuch large contributions, that they set the altar in a blaze.

Among these I was surprised to see an author with much politeness in his behaviour, and spirit in his countenance, tottering under an unwieldly burden, As he approached, I discovered him to be Sir John Vanburgh, and could not but smile, when, on his committing his heavy load to the flames, it proved to be “ His skill " in Architecture."

Pope advanced towards Addison, and delivered with great humility those lines written expressly against him, so remarkable for their excellence and their cruelty repeating this couplet :

" Curst be the vorle, how well foe'er it flow,
" That tends to make one worthy man thy foe."

The ingenious critic insisted on his taking them again : “for," said he,“ my associates at the altar,

particularly Horace, would never permit a line of fo “ excellent a satirist to be consumed. The many compliments paid me in other parts of your works,

S

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

* amply compensate for this flight indignity. And " be affured, that no little pique or misunderstanding e shall ever make me a foe to genius."

Pope bowed in some confusion,and promised to substitute a fictitious name at least, which was all that was left in his power. He then retired, after having made a facrifice of a little packet of Antitheses, and some parts of his translation of Homer.

During the course of these oblations, I was charmed with the candour, decency, and judgment, with which all the priests discharged their different functions. They behaved with such dignity, that it reminded me of those ages, when the offices of king and priest centered in the same person. Whenever any of the assistants were at a loss in any particular circumstances, they applied to Aristotle, who settled the whole business in an inftant.

But the reflections which this pleasing scene produced, were foon interrupted by a tumultuous noise at the gate of the temple; when suddenly a rude illiterate multitude rushed in, led by Tindal, Morgan, Chubb, and Bolingbroke. The chiefs, whose coun. tenances were impressed with rage which art could not conceal, forced their way to the altar, and amidst the joyful acclamations of their followers threw a large volume into the fire. But the triumph was short, and joy and acclamation gave way to filence and astonish. ment; the volume lay unhurt in the midst of the fire, and, as the flames played innocently about it, I could discover, written in letters of gold, the words, THE BIBLE. At that instant my ears were ravilhaed with the sound of more than mortal music accompanying a hymn sung by invisible beings, of which I well remember the following verses:

G

$6 The

[ocr errors]

Ver

UIT

• The words of the Lord are pure words : even as " the filver, which in the earth is tried, and purified • seven times in the fire.

“ More to be desired are they than gold; yea, than “ much fine gold : sweeter also than honey, and the * honey-comb."

The united melody of instruments and voices, which formed a concert so exquisite, that, as Milton says, “ it might create a foul under the ribs of death,” threw me into such ecitafics, that I was awakened by their violence.

&.

I am, Sir,

Your humble servant,

CRITO.

No.

No. XCI. Tuefday, September 18. 1753.

Fakto pius et fceleratus eodem.

OVID.

Thus was the father pious to a crime.

ADDISON,

It is contended by those who reject Christianity, that if revelation had been neceffary as a rule of life to mankind, it would have been universal; and they are, upon this principle, compelled to affirm that only to be a rule of life which is universally known.

But no rule of life is universally known, except the dictates of conscience. With respect to particular actions, opinion determines whether they are good or ill; and conscience approves or disapproves, in consequence of this determination, whether it be in favour of truth or falsehood. Nor can the errors of conscience be always imputed to a criminal neglect of inquiry :

G 2

those,

« FöregåendeFortsätt »