Category Archives: Criticism

Item of the Day: Pye’s Poetics of Aristotle (1792)

Full Title:

A Commentary Illustrating the Poetic of Aristotle, By Examples Taken Chiefly from the Modern Poets.  To Which is Prefixed, A new and corrected edition of the Translation of the Poetic.  By Henry James Pye, Esq.  London: Printed for John Stockdale, Piccadilly.  M.DCC.XCII.

COMMENTARY.  Chap. I. Note I.

The Epopee and Tragedy, as also comedy and dithyrambics, and the greater part of those compositions which are set to the flute and the lyre, all agree in the general character of being imitations. 

By imitation, Aristotle does not mean merely description, but a lively representation of human actions, passions, and manners.  It would be superfluous to say much on a subject which has been so amply and clearly treated by Mr. Twining, in his ‘Dissertation on Poetry considered as an imitative art,’ and to which I refer such of my readers as desire full and satisfactory information on this subject.  Aristotle, undoubtedly, places that species of imitation in the first class, which is performed by persons acting, as in the drama, and, for the most part, in the epopees of Homer.  This appears from what he says of the epopee, in the twenty-fourth chapter.  ‘The poet (he observes) should appear himself as little as possible, for whenever he speaks in his own person he ceases to be an imitator;’ seeming even to contradict what he had before allowed in the third chapter, ‘that the poet might imitate, either like Homer, sometimes by simple narration, and sometimes by assuming a different character; or entirely by narration, without assuming any character.’  It may perhaps be impossible strictly to reconcile this difference of opinion, but it obviously shews the great preference he gave personal imitation to any other, from which arose his strong predilection for tragedy; and I think we may fairly deduce from it, that even the poet whose imitation is solely narrative, must paint in strong colours the effects of action, passions and manners, and not merely relate a fable though fictitious, like an historian, for the purpose of drawing moral reflections from it.

Those passages, nevertheless, of an epic poem, where the poet speaks in his own person, have great beauty from their contrast with the impassioned parts, and the relief they give the mind, provided they are neither too frequent nor too long, and the rule laid down by Aristotle, in his twenty-fourth chapter, concerning the elegance of the versification be carefully observed.  Mr. Twining quotes a beautiful example from the first Aeneid.

‘Urbs antique fuit, (Tyrii tenuêre coloni,)

Carthago, Italiam contra Tiberinaque longe

Ostia—.’

Innumerable instances may be produced from Milton; as the description of evening and of paradise, in the fourth book of Paradise Lost; in this he is superior to any poet ancient or modern, though there are many striking passages of the same kind in the Odyssey.

The modern invention of reciting a tale, by means of an epistolary correspondence between the persons concerned, is a very happy mode of imitation, uniting in some measure the different advantages of epopee and the drama.  Perhaps a work of this nature, where the character and style of all the persons corresponding, is nicely discriminated and rigidly observed, is yet a desideratum in imitative composition.    

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Filed under 1790's, Ancient Greece, Criticism, Drama, Eighteenth century, Greek/Roman Translations, Literature, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Johnson’s Lives: Swift (1781)

Full Title:

The Lives of the English Poets; and a Criticism of their Works. By Samuel Johnson. Vol. II. Dublin: Printed for Messrs. Whitestone, Williams, Colles, Wilson, Lynch, Jenkin, Walker, Burnet, Hallhead, Flin, Exshaw, Beatty, and White. M,DCC,LXXXI.

SWIFT.

[…] In his academical studies [Jonathan Swift] was either not diligent or not happy. It must disappoint every reader’s expectation, that, when at the usual time he claimed the Bachelorship of Arts, he was found by the examiners too conspicuously deficient for regular admission, and obtained his degree at last by special favour; a term used in that University [Dublin] to denote want of merit.

Of this disgrace it may be easily supposed that he was much ashamed, and shame had its proper effect in producing reformation. He resolved from that time to study eight hours a-day, and continued his industry for seven years, with what improvement is sufficiently known. This part of his story well deserves to be remembered; it may afford useful admonition and powerful encouragement to many men, whose abilities have been made for a time useless by their passions or pleasures, and who, having lost one part of life in idleness, are tempted to throw away the remainder in despair.

In the course of daily application he continued three years longer at Dublin; and in this time, if the observation and memory of an old companion may be trusted, he drew the first sketch of his Tale of a Tub.

When he was about one and twenty (1688), being by the death of Godwin Swift his uncle, who had supported him, left without subsitence, he went to consult his mother, who then lived in Leicester, about the future course of his life, and by her direction solicited the advice and patronage of Sir William Temple, who had married one of Mrs. Swift’s relations, and whose father Sir John Temple, Master of the Rolls in Ireland, had lived in great familiarity of friendship with Godwin Swift, by whom Jonathan had been at that time maintained.

Temple received with sufficient kindness the nephew of his father’s friend, with whom he was, when they conversed together, so much pleased, that he detained him two years in his house. Here he became known to King William, who sometimes visited Temple when he was disabled by the gout, and, being attended by Swift in the garden, shewed him how to cut asparagus in the Dutch way.

King William’s notions were all military; and he expressed his kindness to Swift by offering to make him a captain of horse.

When Temple removed to Moor-park, he took Swift with him; and when he was consulted by the Earl of Portland about the expedience of complying with a bill then depending for making Parliaments triennial, against which King William was strongly prejudiced, after having in vain tried to shew the Earl that the proposal involved nothing dangerous to royal power, he sent Swift for the same purpose to the King. Swift, who probably was proud of his employment, and went with all the confidence of a young man, found his arguments, and his art of displying them, made totally ineffectual by the predetermination of the King; and used to mention this disappointment as his first antidote against vanity.

Before he left Ireland he contracted a disorder, as he thought, by eating too much fruit. The original of diseases is commonly obscure. Almost every boy eats as much fruit as he can get, without any great inconvenience. The disease of Swift was giddiness with deafness, which attacked him from time to time, began very early, pursued him through life, and at last sent him to the grave, deprived of reason.

Being much oppressed at Moor-park by this grievous malady, he was advised to try his native air, and went to Ireland; but finding no benefit, returned to Sir William, at whose house he continued his studies, and is known to have read, among other books, Cyprian and Irenaeus. He thought exercise of great necessity, and used to run half a mile up and down a hill every two hours.

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Filed under 1780's, Biography, Criticism, Literature, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Burke on the Sublime and Beautiful (1798)

Full Title: A Philosophical Enquiry Into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. With an Introductory Discourse Concerning Taste; And Several Other Additions. By Edmund Burke, Esq. A New Edition. London: Printed for Vernor and Hood, F. and C. Rivington, T. N. Longman, Cadell and Davies, J. Cuthell, J. Walker, Lackington, Allen, and Co. Ogilvy and Son, and J. Nunn. MDCCXCVIII. [Originally 1757.]

Sect. XXVII.

THE SUBLIME AND BEAUTIFUL COMPARED.

On closing this general view of beauty it naturally occurs, that we should compare it with the sublime; and in this comparison there appears a remarkable contrast. For sublime objects are vast in their dimensions, beautiful ones comparatively small: beauty should be smooth and polished; the great, rugged and negligent: beauty should shun the right line, yet deviate from it insensibly; the great in many cases loves the right line; and when it deviates, it often makes a strong deviation; beauty should not be obscure; the great ought to be dark and gloomy: beauty should be light and delicate; the great ought to be solid, and even massive. They are indeed ideas of a very different nature, one being founded on pain, the other on pleasure; and however they may vary afterwards from the direct nature of their causes, yet these causes keep up an eternal distinction between then, a distinction never to be forgotten by anyone whose business it is to affect the passions. In the infinite variety of natural combinations, we must expect to find the qualities of things the most remote imaginable from each other united in the same object. We must expect also to find combinations of the same kind in works of art. But when we consider the power of an object upon our passions, we must know that when anything is intended to affect the mind by the force of some predominant property, the affection produced is like to be more uniform and perfect, if all the other properties and qualities of the object be of the same nature, and tending to the same design as the principal;

If black and white blend, soften and unite
A thousand ways, are there no black and white?

If the qualities of the sublime and beautiful are sometimes found united, does this prove that they are the same; does it prove that they are any way allied; does it prove that they are not opposite and contradictory? Black and white may soften, may blend; but they are not therefore the same. Nor, when they are so softened and blended with each other, or with different colours, is the power of black as black, or of white as white, so strong as when each stands uniform and distinguished.  

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Filed under 1750's, 1790's, Art, Criticism, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Pope’s Dunciad (1770)

Full Title: The Works of Alexander Pope, Esq. Volume V. Containing the Dunciad in Four Books. London: Printed for C. Bathurst, W. Strahan, J. and F. Rivington, R. Baldwin, W. Johnston, T. Caslon, T. Longman, B. Law, Johnson and Davenport, T. Davies, T. Cadell, and W. and J. Richardson. MDCCLXX.

The Dunciad in Four Books, with the Prolegomena of Scriblerus, the Hypercritics of Aristarchus, and Notes Variorum.

Martinus Scriblerus of the Poem.

This poem, as it celebrateth the most grave and ancient things, Chaos, Night, and Dulness; so is it of the most grave and ancient kind. Homer (saith Aristotle) was the first person gave the Form, and (saith Horace) who adapted the Measure, to heroic poesy. But even before this, may be rationally presumed from what the Ancients have left written, was a piece by Homer composed, of like nature and matter with this of our Poet. For of Epic sort it appeareth to have been, yet of matter surely not unpleasant, witness what is reported of it by the learned archbishop Eustathius, in Odyss. x. And accordingly Aristotle, in his Poetic, chap. iv. doth further set forth, that as the Iliad and Odyssey gave example to Tragedy, so did this poem to Comedy its first idea.

From these authors also it should seem, that the Hero, or chief personage of it was no less obscure, and his understanding and sentiments no less quaint and strange (if indeed not more so) than any of the actors of our poem. Margites was the name of this personage, whom Antiquity recordeth to have been Dunce the first; and surely from what we hear of him, not unworthy to be the   root of so spreading a tree, and so numerous a posterity. The poem therefore celebrating him was properly and absolutely a Dunciad; which though now unhappily lost, yet is its nature sufficiently known by the infallible tokens aforesaid. And thus it doth appear, that the first Dunciad was the first Epic poem, written by Homer himself, and anterior even to the Iliad or Odyssey. 

Now, forasmuch as our poet hath translated those two famous works of Homer which are yet left, he did conceive it in some sort his duty yo imitate that also which was lost; and was therefore induced to bestow on it the same form which Homer’s is reported to have had, namely that of Epic poem; with a title also framed after the ancient Greek manner, to wit, that of the Dunciad.

Wonderful it is, that so few of the moderns have been stimulated to attempt some Dunciad! since in the opinion of the multitude, it might cost less pain and toil than an imitation of the greater Epic. But possible it is also, that, on due reflection, the maker might find it easier to paint a Charlemagne, a Brute, or a Godfrey, with just pomp and dignity heroic, than a Margites, a Codrus or a Fleckno.

We shall next declare the occasion and the cause which moved our poet to this particular work. He lived in those days, when (after Providence had permitted the invention of Printing as a scourge for the sins of the learned) Paper also became so cheap, and Printers so numerous, that a deluge of Authors covered the land: whereby not only the peace of the honest unwriting subject was daily molested, but unmerciful demands were made of his applause, yea of his money, by such as would neither earn the one, nor deserve the other. At the same time, the licence of the press was such, that it grew dangerous to refuse them either: for they would forthwith publish slanders unpunished, the authors being anonymous, and skulking under the wings of Publishers, a set of men who never scrupled to vend either calumny or blasphemy, as long as the Town would call for it.

Now our author, living in those times, did conceive it an endeavor well worthy an honest satyrist, to dissuade the dull, and punish the wicked, the only way that was left. In that public-spirited view he laid the plan of this poem, as the greatest service he was capable (without must hurt, or being slain) to render his dear country. First taking things from their original, he considereth the causes creative of such Authors, namely Dulness and Poverty the one born with them, the other contracted by neglect of their proper talents, through self-conceit of greater abilities. This truth he wrappeth in an Allegory (as the construction of Epic poesy requireth), and feigns that one of these Goddesses had taken up her abode with the other, and that they jointly inspired all such writers and such works. He proceedeth to shew the qualities they bestow on these authors, and the effects they produce; then the materials, or stock, with which they furnish them; and (above all) that self-opinion, which causeth it to seem to themselves vastly greater than it is, and it the prime motive of their setting up in this sad and sorry merchandise. The great power of these Goddesses acting in alliance (whereof as the one is the mother of Industry, so is the other of Plodding) was to be exemplified in some one, great and remarkable action. And none could be more so than that which our poet hath chosen, viz. the restoration of the reign of Chaos and Night, by the ministry of Dulness their daughter, in the removal of her imperial seat from the City to the polite World; as the action of the Aeneid is the restoration of the empire of Troy, by the removal of the race from thence to Latium. But as Homer singing only the wrath of Achilles, yet includes in his poem the whole history of the Trojan War; in like manner our author hath drawn into this single action the whole history of Dulness and her children.

Person must next be fixed upon to support this Action. This phantom in the poet’s mind must have a Name: he finds it to be ___; and he becomes of course the Hero of the poem.    

The Fable being thus, according to the best example, one and entire, as contained in the proposition; the Machineryis a continued chain of Allegories, setting forth the whole Power, Ministry, and Empire of Dulness, extended through her subordinate instruments, in all he various operations.

This is branched into Episodes, each of which hath its Moral apart, though all conducive to the main end. The Crowd, assembled in the second book, demonstrates the design to be more extensive than to bad poets only, and that we may expect other Episodes of the Patrons, Encouragers or Paymasters of such authors as occasion shall bring them forth. And the third book, if well considered, seemeth to embrace the whole World. Each of the Games relateth to some or other vile class of writers: the first concerneth the plagiary, to whom he giveth the name of More; the second the libelous Novelist, whom he styleth Eliza; the third, the flattering Dedicator; the fourth, the bawling Critic, or noisy Poet; the fifth, the dark and dirty Party-writer; and so of the rest; assigning to each some proper name or other, such as he could find.

As for the Characters, the public hath already acknowledged how justly they are drawn: The manners are so depicted, and the sentiments so peculiar to those to whom applied, that surely to transfer them to any other or wiser personages, would be exceeding difficult: And certain it it, that every person concerned, being consulted apart, hath readily owned the resemblance of every portrait, his own excepted. So Mr. Cibber calls them, “a parcel of poor wretches, so many silly flies: but adds, our Author’s wit is remarkably more bare and barren, whenever it would fall foul on Cibber, than upon any other person whatever.”

The Descriptions are singular, the Comparisons very quaint, the Narration various, yet of one colour: The purity and chastity of Diction is so preserved, that in the places most suspicious, not the words but only the images have been censured, and yet are those images no other than have been sanctified by ancient and classical Authority (though, as was the manner of those good times, not so curiously wrapped up) yea, and commented upon by the most grave Doctors, and approved Critics.

As it beareth the name of Epic, it is thereby subjected to such severe indispensible rules as are laid on all Neoterics, a strict imitation of the Ancients; insomuch that any deviation, accompanied with whatever poetic beauties, hath always been censured by the sound Critic. How exact that Imitation hath been in this piece, appeareth not only by its general structure, but by particular allusions infinite, many whereof have escaped both the commentator and poet himself, yea divers by his exceeding diligence are so altered and interwoven with the rest, that several have already been, and more will be, by the ignorant abused, as altogether and originally his own.

In a word, the whole poem proveth itself to be the work of our Author, when his faculties were in full vigour and perfection: at that exact time when years have ripened the Judgment without diminishing the Imagination: which by good Critics is held to be punctually at forty. For at that season it was that Virgil finished his Georgics; and Sir Richard Blackmore, at the like age composing his Arthurs, declared the same to be the very Acme and pitch of life for Epic poesy: Though since he hath altered it to sixty, the year in which he published his Alfred. True it is, that the talents for Criticism, namely smartness, quick censure, vivacity of remark, certainty of asservation, indeed all by acerbity, seem rather the gifts of youth than of riper age: But it is far otherwise in Poetry; witness the works of Mr. Rymer and Mr. Dennis, who beginning with Criticism, became afterwards such Poets as no age hath paralleled. With good reason therefore did our author chuse to write his Essay on that subject at twenty, and reserve for his maturer years this great and wonderful work of the Dunciad.

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Filed under 1770's, Criticism, Literature, Posted by Matthew Williams, Satire

Item of the Day: Burney’s History of Music (1789)

Full Title: A General History of Music, From the Earliest Ages to the Present Period. By Charles Burney, Mus. D. F. R. S.  Volume the Third. London, Printed For the Author: And sold by Payne and Son, at the Mews-Gate; Robson and Clark, Bond-Street; and G. G. J. and J. Robinson, Paternoster-Row. MDCCLXXXIX.

Essay on Musical Criticism.

As Music may be defined as the art of pleasing by the succession and combination of agreeable sounds, every hearer has a right to give way to his feelings, and be pleased or dissatisfied without knowledge, experience, or the fiat of critics; but then he has certainly no right to insist on others being pleased or dissatisfied in the same degree. I can very readily forgive the man who admires a different Music from that which pleases me, provided he does not extend his hatred or contempt of my favourite Music to myself, and imagine that on the exclusive admiration of any one style of Music, and a close adherence to it, all wisdom, taste, and virtue depend.

Criticism in this art would be better taught by specimens of good composition and performance that by reasoning and speculation. But there is a certain portion of enthusiasm connected with a love of the fine arts, which bids defiance to every curb of criticism; and the poetry, painting, or Music that leaves us on the ground, and does not transport us into the regions of imagination beyond the reach of cold criticism, may be correct, but is devoid of genius and passion. There is, however, a tranquil pleasure, short of rapture, to be acquired from Music, in which intellect and sensation are equally concerned; the analysis of this pleasure is, therefore, the subject of the present short Essay; which it is hoped, will explain and apologize for the critical marks which have been made in the course of this History, on the works of great masters, and prevent their being construed into pedantry and arrogance.

Indeed, musical criticism has been so little cultivated in our country, that its first elements are hardly known. In justice to the late Mr. Avison, it must be owned, that he was the first, and almost the only writer, who attempted it. But his judgment was warped by many prejudices. He exalted Rameau and Geminiani at the expense of Handel, and was a declared foe to modern German symphonies. There have been many treatises published on the art of musical composition and performance, but none to instruct ignorant lovers of Music how to listen, or to judge for themselves. So various are musical styles, that it requires not only extensive knowledge, and long experience, but a liberal, enlarged and candid mind, to discriminate and allow to each its due praise:

Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri.

A critic should have none of the contractions and narrow partialities of such as can see but a small angle of the art; of whom there are some so bewildered in fugues and complicated contrivances that they can receive pleasure from nothing but canonical answers, imitations, inversions, and counter-subjects; while others are equally partial to light, simple, frivolous melody, regarding every species of artificial composition as mere pedantry and jargon. A chorus of Handel and a graceful opera song should not preclude each other: each had its peculiar merit; and no one musical production can comprise the beauties of every species of composition. It is not unusual for disputants, in all the arts, to reason without principles; but this, I believe, happens more frequently in musical debates than any other. By principles, I mean having a clear and precise idea of the constituent parts of a good composition, and of the principle excellencies of perfect execution. And it seems, as if the merit of musical productions, both as to composition and performance, might be estimated according to De Piles’ steel-yard, or test of merit among painters. If a complete musical composition of different movements were analysied [sic], it would perhaps be found to consist of some of the following ingredients: melody, harmony, modulation, invention, grandeur, fire, pathos, taste, grace, and expression; while the executive part would require neatness, accent, energy, spirit, and feeling; and, in a vocal performer, or instrumental, where the tone depends on the player, power, clearness, sweetness; brilliancy of execution in quick movements, and touching expression in slow.

But as all these qualities are seldom united in one composer or player, the piece or performer that comprises the greatest number of these excellences, and in the most perfect degree, is entitled to pre-eminence: though the production or performer that can boast of anyof these constituent qualities cannot be pronounced totally devoid of merit. In this manner, a composition, by a kind of chemical precess, may be decompounded as well as any other production of art or nature. 

Prudent critics, without science, seldom venture to pronounce their opinion of a composition, decisively, till they have heard the name of the matter, or discovered the sentiments of a professor; but here the poor author is often at the mercy of prejudice, or envy. Yet the opinion of professors of the greatest integrity is not equally infallible concerning every species of musical merit. To judge minutely of singing for instance, requires study and experience in that particular art. Indeed, I have long suspected, some very great instrumental performers of not sufficiently feeling or respecting real good singing. Rapid passages neatly executed seem to please them infinitely more than the finest messa di voce, or tender expression of slow notes, which the sweetest voice, the greatest art, and most exquisite sensibility can produce. They frequently refer all excellence so much to their own performance and perfections, that the adventitious qualities of singers who imitate a hautbois, a flute, or violin, are rated higher than the colouring and refinements that are peculiar to vocal expression; which instrumental performer ought to feel, respect, and try to imitate, however impossible it may be to equal them: approximation would be something, when more cannot be obtained. Of Composition and the genius of particular instruments, whose opinion, but that of composers and performers, who are likewise possessed of probity and candour, can be trusted? There are, alas! but too many professors who approve of nothing which they themselves have not produced or performed. Old musicians complain of the extravagance of the young; and these again of the dryness and inelegance of the old…  

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Filed under 1780's, Criticism, Music, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: The Art of Sinking in Poetry (1751)

Full Title: Miscellanies.  The Second Volume. By D. Swift, Dr. Arbuthnot, and Mr. Pope.  London, Printed for Charles Bathurst, and sold by T. Woodward, C. Davis, C. Hitch, R. Dosley, and W. Bowyer.  MDCCLI.

Martinus Scriblerus,

П Е Р І   В А Θ О Υ Σ:

or, Of the Art of Sinking in Poetry.

[by Alexander Pope] 

CHAP. V.

Of the true Genius for the Profound, and by what it is constituted.

AND I will venture to lay it down, as the first Maxim and Corner-stone of this our Art; that whosoever would excel therein, must studiously avoid, detest, and turn his head from all the ideas, ways, and workings of that pestilent Foe to Wit, and Destroyer of fine Figures, which is known by the name of Common Sense. His business must be to contract the true Gout de travers; and to acquire a most happy, uncommon, unaccountable Way of Thinking. 

He is to consider himself as a Grotesque Painter, whose works would be spoil’d by an imitation of nature or uniformity of design. He is to mingle bits of the most various, or discordant kinds of landscape, history, portraits, animals, and connect them with a great deal of flourishing, by head or by tail, as it shall please his imagination, and contribute to his principal end, which is to glare by strong oppositions of colours, and surprize by contrariety of images.

Serpentes avibus geminentur, trigibus agni.  HOR.

His design ought to be like a labyrinth, out of which no body can get clear by himself. And since the great Art of all Poetry is to mix Truth with Fiction, in order to join the Credible with the Surprizing; our author shall produce the Credible, by painting nature in her lowest simplicity; and the Surprizing, by contradicting common opinion. In the very Manners he will affect the Marvellous; he will draw Achilles with the patience of a Job; a prince talking like a Jack-pudding; a Maid of honour selling bargains; a footman speaking like a philosopher; and a fine gentleman like a scholar.  Whoever is conversant in modern Plays, may make a most noble collection of this kind, and at the same time, form a complete body of modern Ethics and Morality

Nothing seem’d more plain to our great authors, than that the world had long been weary of natural things. How much the contrary are form’d to please, is evident from the universal applause daily given to the admirable entertainments of Harlequins and Magicians on our stage. When an audience behold a couch turn’d into a wheelbarrow, a conjurer into an old woman, or a man’s head where his heels should be; how are they struck with transport and delight? Which can only be imputed to this cause, that each object is chang’d into that which hath been suggested to them by their own ideas before.

He ought therefore to render himself master of this happy and anti-natural way of thinking to such a degree, as to be able, on the appearance of any object, to furnish his imagination with ideas infinitely below it.  And his eyes should be like unto the wrong end of a perpective glass, by which all the objects of nature are lessen’d.

For Example; when a true genius looks upon the Sky, he immediately catches the idea of a piece of blue lute-string, or a child’s mantle.

The Skies, whose spreading volumes scarce have room,
Spun thin, and wove in nature’s finest loom,
The new-born world in their soft lap embrac’d,
And all around their starry mantle cast. *

If he looks upon a Tempest, he shall have an image of a tumbled bed, and describe a succeeding calm in this manner;

The Ocean, joy’d to see the tempest fled,
New lays his waves, and smooths his ruffled bed. **
____________________________
* Prince Arthur, p. 41, 42.
** p. 14

NB. In order to do justice to these great Poets, our Citations are taken from the best, the last, and most correct Editions of their Works.  That which we use of Prince Arthur, is in duodecimo, 1714. the fourth Edition revised.

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Filed under 1750's, Common sense, Criticism, Poetry, Posted by Matthew Williams, Satire

Word of the Week: Critick

From BAILEY:

A CRI’TICK [critique, F. critice, It. and Sp. criticus, L. of χριτιχος, Gr.] one skilled in criticism, a profound scholar, a nice censurer.

From JOHNSON:

CRI’TICK. n. s. [χριτιχος]

1. A man skilled in the art of judging of literature; a man able to distinguish the faults and beauties of writing.

This settles truer ideas in men’s minds of several things, wherof we read the names in ancient authors, than all the large and laborious arguments of criticks.             Locke.

Now learn what morals ciriticks ought to show,/ For ’tis but half a judge’s talk to show.            Pope. 

2. An examiner; a judge.

But you with pleasure own your errours past,/ and make each day a critick on the last.            Pope.

3. A snarler; a carper; a caviller.

Criticks I saw, that other names deface,/ And fix their own with labour in their place.                 Pope.

Where an author has many beauties consistent with virtue, piety, and truth, let not little criticks exalt themselves, and shower down their ill nature.                   Watts.   

4. A censurer; a man apt to find fault.

My chief design, next to seeing you is to be a severe critick on you and your neighbor.              Swift.

From WEBSTER:

CRIT’IC, n. [Gr. χριτιχος, from χριτης, a judge or discerner, from the root of χρινω, to judge, to separate, to distinguish.  See Crime.]

1. A person skilled in judging of the merit of literary works; one who is able to discern and distinguish the beauties and faults of writing.  In a more general sense, a person skilled in judging with propriety any combination of objects, or of any work of art; and particularly of what are denominated the Fine Arts.  A critic is one who, from experience, knowledge, habit or taste, can perceive the difference between propriety and impropriety, in objects or works presented to his view; between the natural and the unnatural; the high and the low, or lofty and mean; the congrous and incongruous; the correct and incorrect, according to the established rules of the art. 

2. An examiner; a judge.

And make each day a critic on the last.          Pope.

3. One who judges with severity; one who censures or finds fault.

                                                         Pope.    Watts.    Swift.

Full Titles: 

Dictionarium Britannicum: or a more compleat universal etymological English dictionary than any extant. By Nathan Bailey. Second Edition. London, T. Cox, 1736.

A Dictionary of the English Language:  In Which the Words are Deduced from Their Originals, and Illustrated in Their Different Significations by Examples from the Best Writers.  To which are prefixed, A History of the Language, and An English Grammar.  By Samuel Johnson, LL.D.  In Two Volumes.–Vol. I.  The Sixth Edition.  London:  Printed for J. F. and C. Rivinton, L. David, T. Payne and Son, W. Owen, T. Longman, B. Law, J. Dodsley, C. Dilly, W. Lowndes, G. G. J. and J. Robinson, T. Cadell, Jo. Johnson, J. Robson, W. Richardson, J. Nichols, R. Baldwin, W. Goldsmith, J. Murray, W. Stuart, P. Elmsly, W. Fox, S. Hayes, A. Strahan, W. Bent, T. and J. Egerton, and M. Newberry.  1785.

An American Dictionary of the English Language: Intended to Exhibit, I. The origin, affinities and primary signification of English words, as far as they have been ascertained.  II. The genuine orthography and pronunciation of words, according to general usage, or to just principles of analogy.  III. Accurate and discriminating definitions, with numerous authorities and illustrations,  To which are prefixed, An Introductory Dissertation of the Origin, History and Conection of the Languages of Western Asia and of Europe, and a Concise Grammar of the English Language.  By Noah Webster, LL. D.  In Two Volumes.  Vol. I.  New York:  Published by S. Converse.  Printed by Hezekiah Howe-New Haven.  1828. 

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Filed under Criticism, Dictionaries, Language, Posted by Matthew Williams, Vocabulary