Category Archives: Literature

Item of the Day: Akenside’s Poems (1772)

Full Title:

The Poems of Mark Akenside, M. D.  London, Printed by W. Bowyer and J Nichols: And Sold by J. Dodsley, In Pall Mall.  MDCCLXXII.

The Pleasures of the Imagination: Book the Second.

Introduction to this more difficult part of the subject.  Of truth and its three classes, matter of fact, experimental or scientifical truth, (contradistinguished from opinion) and universal truth: which last is either metaphysical or geometrical, either purely intellectual or purely abstracted.  On the power of discerning truth depends that of acting with the view of an end; a cicumstance essential to virtue.  Of virtue, considered in the divine mind as a perpetual and universal beneficence.  Of human virtue, considered as a system of particular sentiments and actions, suitable to the design of providence and the condition of man; to whom it constitutes the chief good and the first beauty.  Of vice and its origin.  Of ridicule: its general nature and first cause.  Of the passions; particularly of those which relate to evil natural or moral, and which are generally accounted painful, though not always unattended with pleasure.   

Thus far of beauty and the pleasing forms

Which man’s untutor’d fancy, from the scenes

Imperfect of this ever-changing world,

Creates; and views, inamor’d. Now my song

Severer themes demand: mysterious truth;

And virtue, sovran good: the spells, the trains,

The progeny of error: the dread sway

Of passion; and whatever hidden stores

From her own lofty deeds and from herself

The mind acquires.  Severer argument:

Not less attractive; nor deserving less

A constant ear.  For what are all the forms

Educ’d by fancy from corporeal things,

Greatness, or pomp, or symmetry of parts?

Not tending to the heart, soon feeble grows,

As the blunt arrow ’gainst the knotty trunk,

Their impulse on the sense: while the pall’d eye

Expects in vain its tribute; asks in vain,

Where are the ornaments it once admir’d?

Not so the moral species, nor the powers

Of passion and of thought.  The ambitious mind

With objects boundless as her own desires

Can there converse: by these unfading forms

Touch’d and awaken’d still, with eager act

She bends each nerve, and meditates well-pleas’d

Her gifts, her godlike fortune.  Such the scenes

Now opening round us.  May the destin’d verse

Maintain its equal tenor, though in tracts

Obscure and arduous.  May the source of light

All-present, all sufficient, guide our steps

Through every maze: and whom in childish years

From the loud throng, the beaten paths of wealth

And power, thou did’st apart send forth to speak

In tuneful words concerning highest things,

Him still do thou, o father, at those hours

Of pensive freedom, when the human soul

Shuts out the rumour of the world, him still

Touch thou with secret lessons: call thou back

Each erring thought; and let the yielding strains

From his full bosom, like a welcome rill

Spontaneous from its healthy fountain, flow […]

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Filed under 1770's, Eighteenth century, Literature, Philosophy, Poetry, Posted by Matthew Williams

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: The Works of Shakespear (1771)

Full Title: The Works of Shakespear. In Six Volumes. Adorned with Sculptures.  (Volume the First. Consisting of Comedies). The Second Edition. Oxford: Printed at the Clarendon-Press, MDCCLXXI.

THE

PREFACE.

WHAT the publick is here to expect is a true and correct edition of Shakespear’s works cleared from the corruptions with which they have hitherto abounded. One of the great admirers of this incomparable author hath made it the amusement of his leisure hours for many years past to look over his writings with a careful eye, to note the obscurities and absurdities introduced into the text, and according to the best of his judgment to restore the genuine sense and purity of it. In this he proposed nothing to himself but his private satisfaction in making his own copy as perfect as he could: but as the emendations multiplied upon his hands, other gentlemen equally fond of the author desired to see them and some were so kind as to give their assistance by communicating their observations and conjectures upon difficult passages which had occurred to them. Thus by degrees the work growing more considerable than was at first expected, they who had the opportunity of looking into it, too partial perhaps in their judgment, thought it worth being made publick; and he, who hath with difficulty yielded to their persuasions, is far from desiring to reflect upon the late editors for the omissions and defects which they left to be supplied by others who should follow them in the same province. On the contrary he thinks the world much obliged to them for the progress they made in weeding out so great a number of blunders and mistakes as they have done, and probably he who hath carried on the work might never have thought of such an undertaking if he had not found a considerable part so done to his hands.

From what causes it proceeded that the works of this author in the first publication of them were more injured and abused than perhaps any that ever pass’d the press, hath been sufficiently explained in the preface to Mr. Pope’s edition which is here subjoined, and there needs no more to be said upon that subject. This only the reader is desired to bear in mind, that as the corruptions are more numerous and of a grosser kind than can well be conceived but by those who have looked nearly into them; so in the correcting them this rule hath been most strictly observed, not to give a loose to fancy, or indulge a licentious spirit of criticism, as if it were fit for any one to preseme to judge what Shakespear ought to have written, instead of endeavouring to discover truly and retrieve what he did write: and so great caution hath been used in this respect, that no alterations have been made but what the sense necessarily required, what the measure of the verse often helped to point out, and what the similitude of words in the false reading and in the true, generally speaking, appeared very well to justify.

Most of those passages are here thrown to the bottom of the page and rejected as spurious, which were stigmatized as such in Mr. Pope’s edition; and it were to be wished that more had then undergone the same sentence. The promoter of the present edition hath ventured to discard but few more upon his own judgment, the most considerable of which is that wretched piece of ribaldry in King Henry V. put into the mouths of the French princess and an old gentlewoman, improper enough as it is all in French and not intelligible to an English audience, and yet that perhaps is the best thing that can be said of it. There can be no doubt but a great deal more of that low stuff which disgraces the works of this great author, was foisted in by the players after his death, to please the vulgar audiences by which they subsisted: and though some of the poor witticisms and conceits must be supposed to have fallen from his pen, yet he hath put them generally into the mouths of low and ignorant people, so it is to be remember’d that he wrote for the stage, rude and unpolished as it then was; and the vicious taste of the age must stand condemned for them, since he thath left upon record a signal proof how much he despised them. In his play of The Merchant of Venice a clown is introduced quibbling in a miserable manner, upon which one who bears the character of a man of sense makes the following reflection: How every fool can play upon a Word! I think the best grace of wit will shortly turn into silence, and discourse grow commendable in none but parrots. He could hardly have found stronger words to express his indignation at those false pretences to with then in vogue; and therefore though such trash is frequently interspersed in his writings, it would be unjust to cast it as an imputation upon his taste and judgment and character as a Writer.

There being many words in Shakespear which are grown out of use and obsolete, and many borrowed from other languages which are not enough naturalized or known among us, a glossary is added at the end of the work, for the explanation of all those terms which have hitherto been so many stumbling-blocks to the generality of readers; and where there is any obscurity in the text not arising from the words but from a reference to some antiquated customs now forgotten, or other causes of that kind, a note is put at the bottom of the page to clear up the difficulty.

With these several helps of that rich vein of sense which runs through the works of this author can be retrieved in every part and brought to appear in its true light, and if it may be hoped without presumption that this is here effected; they who love and admire him will receive a new pleasure, and all probably will be more ready to join in doing him justice, who does great honour to his country as a rare and perhaps a singular genius: one who hath attained an high degree of perfection in those two great branches of poetry, Tragedy and Comedy, different as they are in their natures from each other; and who may be said without partiality to have equalled, if not excelled, in both kinds, the best writers of any age or country who have thought it glory enough to distinguish themselves ineither.

Since therefore other nations have taken care to dignify the works of their most celebrated poets with the fairest impressions beautified with the ornaments of sculpture, well may our Shakespear be thought to deserve no less consideration: and as a fresh acknowledgement hath lately been paid to his merit, and a high regard to his name and memory, by erecting his statue at a publick expense; so it is desired that this new edition of his works, which hath cost some attention and care, may be looked upon as another small monument designed and dedicated to his honour.

 

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Filed under 1770's, Literature, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Shakespeare

Item of the Day: Boswell’s Life of Johnson (1793)

Full Title:  The Lofe of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. Comprehending an Account of His Studies and Numerous Works, In Chronological Order; A Series of His Epistolary Correspondence and Conversations with Many Eminent Persons; and Various Original Pieces of His Composition, Never Before Published: The Whole Exhibiting a View of Literature and Literary Men in Great-Britain, For Near Half a Century, During Which He Flourished. In Three Volumes. The Second Edition, Revised and Augmented.  By James Boswell, Esq. Volume the First. London: Printed by Henry Baldwin, For Charles Dilly, in the Poultry. M DCC XCIII.

The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

To write the life of him who excelled all mankind in writing the lives of others, and who, whether we consider his extraordinary endowments, or his various works, has been equalled by few in any age, is an arduous, and may be reckoned in me a presumptuous task.

Had Dr. Johnson written his own life, in conformity with the opinion which he has given, that every man’s life may be best written by himself; had he employed in the preservation of his own history, that clearness of narration and elegance of language in which he has embalmed so many eminent persons, the world would probably have had the most perfect example of biography that was ever exhibited. But although he at different times, in a desultory manner, committed to writing many particulars of the progress of his mind and fortunes, he never had persevering diligence enough to form them into a regular composition. Of these memorials a few have been preserved; but the greater part was consigned by him to the flames, a few days before his death.

As I had the honour and happiness of enjoying his friendship for upwards of twenty years; as I had the scheme of writing his life constantly in view; as he was well apprised of this circumstance, and from time to time obligingly satisfied my inquiries, by communicating to me the incidents of his early years; as I acquired a facility in recollecting, and was very assiduous in recording his conversation, of which the extraordinary vigour and vivacity constituted one of the first features of his character; and as I have spared no pains in obtaining materials concerning him, from every quarter where I could discover that they were not to be found, and have been favoured with the most liberal communications by his friends; I flatter myself that few biographers have entered upon such work as this, with more advantages; independent of literary abilities, in which I am not vain enough to compare myself with some great names who have gone before me in this kind of writing.

Since my work was announced, several Lives and Memoirs of Dr. Johnson have been published, the most voluminous of which is one compiled for the booksellers of London, by Sir John Hawkins, Knight, a man, whom, during my long intimacy with Dr. Johnson, I never saw in his company, I think but once, and I am sure not above twice.  Johnson might have esteemed him for his decent, religious demeanour, and his knowledge of books and literary history; but from the rigid formality of his manners, it is evident that they never could have lived together with companionable ease and familiarity; nor had Sir John Hawkins that nice perception which was necessary to mark the finer and less obvious parts of Johnson’s character.  His being appointed one of his executors, gave him an oppotunity of taking possession of such fragments of a diary and other papers as were left; of which, before delivering them up to the residuary legatee, whose property they were, he endeavoured to extract the substance.  In this he has not been very successful, as I have found upon a perusal of those papers, which have been since transferred to me.  Sir John Hawkins’s ponderous labours, I must acknowledge, exhibit a farrago, of which a considerable portion is not devoid of entertainment to the lovers of literary gossiping; but besides its being swelled out with long unnecessary extracts from various works, (even one of several leaves from Osbourne’s Harleian Catalogue, and those not compiled by Johnson, but by Oldys,) a very small part of it relates to the person who is the subject of the book; and, in that, there is such an inaccuracry in the statement of facts, as in so solemn an author is hardly excusable, and certainly makes his narrative very unsatisfactory.  But what is still worse, there is throughout the whole of it a dark uncharitable cast, by which the most unfavourable construction is put upon almost every circumstance in the character and conduct of my illustrious friend; who, I trust, will, by a true and fair delineation, be vindicated both from the injurious misrepresentations of this authour, and from the slighter aspersions of a lady who once lived in great intimacy with him.

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Filed under 1790's, Biography, Literature, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Young’s Night Thoughts (1812)

Full Title:  The Complaint; or, Night Thoughts, on Life, Death, and Immortality.  By Edward Young, L.L.D. With the Life of the Author.  London:  Printed for Thomas Tegg, 111, Cheapside.  1812.  [Originally, 1742-1746].

PREFACE.

As the occasion of this Poem was real, not fictitious ; so the method persued in it was rather imposed, by what spontaneously arose in the Author’s mind, on that occasion, than meditated, or designed.  Which will apppear very probable from the nature of it.  For it differs from the common mode of poetry, which is, from long narrations to draw short morals.  Here, on the contrary, the narrative is short, and the morality arising from it makes the bulk of the Poem.  The reason of it is, that the facts mentioned did naturally pour these moral reflections on the thought of the writer.

The Complaint.

Night I.

On Life, Death, and Immortality.

Humbly inscribed to the Right Honourable Arthur Onslow, Esq; Speaker of the House of Commons.

Tir’d Nature’s sweet Restorer, balmy Sleep !

He, like the world, his ready visit pays

Where Fortune smiles ;  the wretched he forsakes;

Swift on his downy pinion flies from woe,

And lights on lids unsully’d with a tear.

From short (as usual) and disturb’d repose,

I wake :  How happy they, who wake no more !

Yet that were vain, if dreams infest the grave.

I wake, emerging from a sea of dreams

Tumultuous ; where my wreck’d desponding thought,

From wave to wave of fancy’d misery,

At random drove, her helm of reason lost.

Though now restor’d, ‘tis only change of pain,

(A bitter change!) severer for severe.

The Day too short for my distress ; and Night,

Ev’n in the zenith of her dark domain,

Is sunshine to the colour of my fate.

 

Night, sable goddess ! from her ebon throne,

In rayless majesty, now stretches forth

Her leaden scepter o’er a slumb’ring world.

Silence, how dead; and darkness, how profoud !

Nor eye, nor list’ning ear, an object finds ;

Creation sleeps.  ‘Tis as the general pulse

Of Life still stood, and Nature made a pause ;

And let her prophecy be soon fulfill’d :

Fate, drop the curtain ; I can lose no more.

 

Silence and Darkness !  solemn sisters !  twins

From ancient Night, who nurse the tender thought

To Reason, and on Reason build Resolve,

(That column of true majesty in man)

Assist me :  I will thank you in the grave ;

The grave, your kingdom :  there this frame shall fall

A victim sacred to your dreary shrine.

But what are ye ?—

 

THOU, who didst put to flight

Primeval silence, when the morning stars,

Exulting, shouted o’er the rising ball ;

O THOU, whose word from solid darkness struck

That spark, the sun, strike wisdom from my soul ;

My soul, which flies to Thee, her trust, her treasure,

As misers to their gold, while others rest.

 

Through this opaque of Nature and of Soul,

This double night, transmit one pitying ray,

To lighten and to cheer.  O lead my mind,

(A mind that fain would wander from its woe)

Lead it through various scenes of life and death;

And, from each scene, the noblest truths inspire.

Nor less inspire my Conduct, than my Song :

Teach my best reason, reason ; my best will

Teach rectitude ; and fix my firm resolve

Wisdom to wed, and pay her long arrear :

Nor let the phial of thy vengeance, pour’d

On this devoted head, be pour’d in vain.

The bell strikes One.  We take no note of time

But from its loss.  To give it, then, a tongue,

Is wise in man.  As if an angel spoke,

I feel the solemn sound.  If heard aright,

It is the knell of my departed hours :

Where are they ?  With the years beyond the flood.

It is the signal that demands dispatch :

How much is to be done ?  My hopes and fears

Start up alarm’d, and o’er life’s narrow verge

Look down.—On what ?  a fathomless abyss !

A dread eternity !  how surely mine !

And can eternity belong to me,

Poor pensioner on the bounties of an hour ?

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Filed under 1740's, 1810's, Literature, Poetry, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Zeluco (1789)

Full Title: Zeluco. Various Views of Human Nature, Taken from Life and Manners, Foreign and Domestic. Vol. I. London: Printed for A. Strahan; and T. Cadell, in the Strand, M.DCC.LXXXIX. [1789]

CHAP. I.

Strong Indications of a vicious Disposition.

RELIGION teaches, that Vice leads to endless misery in a future state; and experience proves, that in spite of the gayest and most prosperous appearance, inward misery accompanies her; for, even in this life, her ways are ways of wretchedness, and all her paths are woe.

This observation has been so often made, that it must be known to all, and its truth is seldom formally denied by any; yet the conduct of men would sometimes lead us to suspect, either that they had never heard it, or that they think it false. To recall a truth of such importance to the recollection of mankind, and to illustrate it by example, may therefore be of use.

Tracing the windings of Vice, however, and delineating the disgusting features of Villany [sic], are unpleasant tasks; and some people cannot bear to contemplate such a picture. It is fair, therefore, to warn Readers of this turn of mind not to peruse the story of Zeluco.

This person, sprung from a noble family in Sicily, was a native of Palermo, where he passed the years of early childhood, without being distinguished by any thing very remarkable in his disposition, unless it was a tendency to insolence, and an inclination to domineer over boys of inferior rank and circumstances. The bad endency of this, however, was so strongly remonstrated against by his father, and others who superintended his education, that it was in a great degree checked, and in a fair way of being entirely overcome.

In the tenth year of his age he lost his father, and was left under the guidance of a mother, whose darling he had ever been, and who had often blamed her husband for too great severity to a son, whom, in her fond opinion, nature had endowed with every good quality.

A short time after the death of his father, Zeluco began to betray strong symptoms of that violent and overbearing disposition to which he had always had a propensity, though he had hitherto been obliged to refrain it. Had that gentleman lived a few years longer, the violence of Zeluco’s temper would, it is probable, have been weakened, or entirely annihilated, by the continued influence of this habit of restraint, and his future life might have exhibited a very different character; for he shewed sufficient command of himself as long as his father lived: but very soon after his death, he indulged, without control, every humour and caprice; and his mistaken mother applauding the blusterings of petulance and pride as indications of spirit, his temper became more and more ungovernable, and at length seemed as inflammable as gunpowder, bursting into flashes of rage at the slightest touch of provocation.

It may be proper to mention one instance of this violence of temper, from which the reader will be enabled to form a juster notion than his mother did, of what kind of spirit it was an indication.

He had a favourite sparrow, so tame it picked crumbs from his hand, and hopped familiarly on the table. One day it did not perform certain tricks which he had taught it, to his satisfaction. This put the boy into a passion: the bird being frightened, attempted to fly off the table. He suddenly seized it with his hand, and while it struggled to get free, with a curse he squeezed the little animal to death. His tutor, who was present, was so shocked at this instance of absurd and brutal rage, that he punished him as he deserved, saying, “I hope this will cure you of giving vent to such odious gusts of passion. If it does not, remember what I tell you, Sir; they will render you hateful to others, wretched to yourself, and may bring you one day to open shame and endless remorse. Zeluco complained to his mother; and she dismissed the tutor, declaring, that she would not have her son’s vivacity repressed by the rigid maxims of a narrow-minded pedant.

 

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Filed under 1780's, England, Fiction, Great Britain, Literature, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

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: Congreve’s Way of the World (1761)

Full Title: The Works of Mr. William Congreve. Volume the Second. Containing Love for Love, a Comedy. The Way of the World, a Comedy. Birmingham, Printed by John Baskerville; for J. and R. Tonson, in the Strand, London. MDCCLXI. [First performed in 1700 Lincoln’s-Inns-Fields, London.]

The Way of the World. Act I. Scene I.

A Chocolate-House. Mirabell and Fainall, rising from Cards. Betty waiting.

MIRABELL. You are a fortunate Man, Mr. Fainall.

FAINALL. Have we done?

MIRABELL. What you please. I’ll play on to entertain you.

FAINALL. No, I’ll give you your Revenge another Time, when you are not so indifferent; you are thinking of Something else now, and play too negligently; the Coldness of a losing Gamester lessens the Pleasure of a Winner. I’d no play with a Man that slighted his ill Fortune, than I’d make Love to a Woman who undervalued the Loss of her Reputation.

MIRABELL. You have a Taste extremely delicate, and are for refining your Pleasures.

FAINALL. Prithee, why so reserv’d? Something has put you out of Humor.

MIRABELL. Not at all: I happen to be grave to Day; and you are gay; that’s all.

FAINALL. Confess, Millamant and you quarrell’d last Night, after I left you; my fair Cousin has some Humors that wou’d tempt the Patience of a Stoic. What, some Coxcomb came in, and was well receiv’d by her, while you were by?

MIRABELL. Witwoud and Petulant; and, what was worse, her Aunt, your Wife’s Mother, my evil Genius; or to sum up all in her own Name, my old Lady Wishfort came in.– 

FAINALL. O there it is then–She has a lasting Passion for you, and with Reason.–What, then my Wife was there?

MIRABELL. Yes, and Mrs. Marwood, and there or four more, whom I never saw before; seeing me, they all put on their grave Faces, whisper’d one another; then complain’d aloud of the Vapors, and after fell into a profound Silence.

FAINALL. They had a mind to be rid of you.

MIRABELL. For which Reason I resolv’d not to stir. At last the good old Lady broke thro’ her painful Taciturnity, with an Invective against long Visits. I would not have understood her, but Milamant joining in the Argument, I rose, and with a constrain’d Smile told her, I thought Nothing was so easy as to know when a Visit began to be troublesome; she redden’d, and I withdrew, without expecting her reply.

FAINALL. You were to blame to resent what she spoke only in Compliance with her Aunt.

MIRABELL. She is more Mistress of herself, than to be under the Necessity of such a Resignation.

FAINALL. What, tho’ half her Fortune depends upon her marrying with my Lady’s Approbation?

MIRABELL. I was then in such a Humor, that I shou’d have been better pleas’f if she had been less discreet.

FAINALL. Now I remember, I wonder not they were weary of you; last Night was one of their Cabal-Nights; they have ’em three Times a Week, and meet by Turns, at one another’s Apartments, where they come together like the Coroner’s Inquest, to sit upon the murder’d Reputations of the Week. You and I are excluded; and it was propos’d that all the Male Sex should be excepted; but some Body mov’d, that to avoid Scandal there might be one Man of the Community; upon which Motion Witwoud and Petulant were enroll’d Members.

MIRABELL. And who may have been the Foundress of this Sect? My Lady Wishfort, I warrant, who publishes her Detestation of Mankind; and full of the Vigor of Fifty five, declares for a Friend and Ratafia; and let Posterity shift for itself, she’ll breed no more.

FAINALL. The Discovery of your sham Addresses to her, to conceal your Love to her Niece, has provok’d this Separation: Had you dissembled better, Things might have continu’d in the State of Nature.

MIRABELL. I did as much as Man cou’d with any reasonable Conscience; I proceeded to the very last Act of Flattery with her, and was guilty of a Song in her Commendation. Nay, I got a Friend to put her in to a Lampoon, and compliment her with the Imputation of an Affair with a young Fellow, which I carry’d so far, that I told her the malicious Town took Notice that she was grown fat of a sudden; and when she lay in of a Dropsy, persuaded her she was reported to be in Labor. The Devil’s in’t, if an old Woman is to be flatter’d further, unless a Man shou’d endeavour downright personally to Debauch her; and that my Virtue forbad me. But for the Discovery of this Armour, I am indebted to your Friend, or your Wife’s Friend, Mrs. Marwood.

FAINALL.  What shou’d provoke her to be your Enemy, unless she has made you Advances, which you have slighted? Women do not easily forgive Omissions of that Nature.

MIRABELL. She was always civil to me, ’till of late: I confess I am not one of those Coxcombs who are apt to interpret a Woman’s good Manners to her Prejudice; and think that she who does not refuse ’em every Thing, can refuse ’em Nothing.

FAINALL. You are a gallant Man, Mirabell; and tho’ you may have Cruelty enough, not to satisfy a Lady’s Longing; you have too much Generosity, not to be tender of her Honor. Yet you speak with an Indifference which seems to be affected; and confesses you are conscious of a Negligence.

MIRABELL. You pursue the argument with a Distrust that seems to be unaffected, and confesses that you are conscious of a Concern, for which the Lady is more indebted to you, than is your Wife. 

FAINALL. Fy, fy, Friend, if you grow censorious I must leave you;–I’ll look upon the Gamesters in the next Room.

MIRABELL. Who are they?

FAINALL. Petulant and Witwoud–Bring me some Chocolate.

MIRABELL. Betty, what says your Clock?

BETTY. Turn’d of the last Canonical Hour, Sir.

MIRABELL. How pertinently the Jade answers me! Ha! almost one o’Clock! [Looking on his Watch.] O, y’are come.–

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Filed under 1700's, 1760's, Drama, Literature, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Dryden’s Juvenal (1693)

Item of the Day: The Satires of Decimus Junius Juvenalis. Translated into English Verse. By Mr. Dryden, and Several other Eminent Hands. Together with the Satires of Aulus Persius Flaccus. Made English by Mr. Dryden. With Explanatory Notes at the end of Each Satire. To which is prefix’d a Discourse concerning the Original and Progress of Satire. Dedicated to the Right Honourable Charles Earl of Dorset, &c., By Mr. Dryden. London, Printed for Jacob Tonson at the Judge’s-Head in Chancery-Lane, near Fleetstreet. M DC XCIII. Where you may have Compleat Sets of Mr. Dryden’s Works, in Four Volumes in Quarto, the Plays being put in the order they were Written.

The Third Satyr of Juvenal, Translated into English Verse by Mr. Dryden.

Argument of the Third Satyr.

The Story of this Satyr speaks it self. Umbritius, the suppos’d Friend of Juvenal, and himself a Poet, is leaving Rome; and retiring to Cumae. Our Author accompanies him out of Town. Before they take leave of each other, Umbritius tells his Friend the Reasons which oblige him to lead a private life in an obscure place. He complains that an honest man cannot get his bread at Rome. That none but Flatterers make their Fortunes there: That Grecians and other Foreigners, raise themselves by those sordid Arts which he describes, and against which he bitterly inveighs. He reckons up the several Inconveniencies which arise from City life; and the many Dangers which attend it. Upbraids the Noblemen with Covetousness, for not Rewarding good Poets; and arraigns the Government for starving them. The great Art of this Satyr is particularly shown, in Common Places; and drawing in as many Vices, as cou’d naturally fall into the compass of it.  

The THIRD SATYR.

Griev’d tho I am, an Ancient Friend to lose,

I like the Solitary Seat he chose:

In quiet Cumae fixing his Repose:

Where, far from Noisy Rome secure he Lives,

And one more Citizen to Sybil Gives.

The Road to Bajae, and that soft Recess

Which all the Gods with all their Bounty bless.

Tho I in Prochyta which greater ease

Cou’d live, than in a Street of Palaces.

What Scene so Desart, or s full of Fright,

As tow’ring Houses tumbling in the Night,

And Rome on Fire beheld by its own Blazing Light?

But worse than all, the clatt’ring Tiles; and worse

Than thousand Padders, is the Poet’s Curse.

Rogues that in Dog-days cannot Rhime forbear;

But without Mercy read, and make you hear.

 

Now while my Friend just ready to depart,

Was packing all his Goods in one poor Cart;

He stopp’d a little at the Conduit-Gate,

Where Numa modell’d one the Roman State,

In Mighty Councels with his Nymphs retir’d:

Though now the Sacred Shades and Founts are hir’d

By Banish’d Jews, who their whole Wealth can lay

In a small Basket, on a Wisp of Hay;

Yet such our Avarice is, that every Tree

Pays for his Head; not Sleep it self is free:

Nor Place, nor Persons now are Sacred held,

From their own Grove the Muses are expell’d.

Into this lonely Vale our Steps we bend,

I and my sullen discontented Friend:

The Marble Caves, and Aquaeducts we view;

But how Adult’rate now, and different from the true!

How much more Beauteous had the Fountain been

Embellish’t with her first Created Green,

Where Crystal Streams through living Turf had run,

Contented with an Urn of Native Stone!

 

Then thus Umbricius, (with an Angry Frown,

And looking back on this degen’rate Town,)

Since Noble Arts in Rome have no support,

And ragged Virtue not a Friend at Court,

No Profit rises from th’ungrateful Stage,

My Poverty encreasing with my Age,

’Tis time to give my just Disdain a vent,

And, Cursing, leave so base a Government.

Where Dedalus his borrow’d Wings laid by,

To that obscure Retreat I chuse to fly:

While yet few furrows on my Face are seen,

While I walk upright, and Old Age is green,

And Lachesis has somewhat left to spin.

Now, now ’tis time to quit this cursed place;

And hide from Villains my too honest Face:

Here let Arturius live, and such as he;

Such Manners will with such a Town agree.

Knaves who in full Assemblies have the knack

Of turning Truth to Lies, and White to Black:

Can hire large Houses, and oppress the Poor

By farm’d Excise, and cleanse the Common-shoare;

And rent the Fishery; can bear the dead;

And teach their Eyes dissembled Tears to shed:

All this for Gain; for Gain they sell their very Head,

These Fellows (see what Fortune’s pow’r can do)

Were once the Minstrels of a Country Show:

Follow’d the Prizes through each paltry Town,

By Trumpet-Cheeks, and Bloated Faces known.

But now, grown rich, on drunken Holy-days,

At their own Costs exhibit Publick Plays;

Where influenc’d by the Rabble’s bloody will,

With Thumbs bent back, they popularly kill.

From thence return’d, their sordid Avarice rakes

In Excrements again, and hires the Jakes.

Why hire they not the Town, not ev’ry thing,

Since such as they have Fortune in a String?

Who, for her pleasure, can her Fools advance;

And toss ’em topmost on the Wheel of Chance.

What’s Rome to me, what bus’ness have I there,

I who can neither Lye nor falsly Swear?

Nor Praise my Patron’s underserving Rhimes,

Nor yet comply with him, nor with his Times;

Unskill’d in Schemes by Planets to foreshow

Like Canting Rascals, how the Wars will go:

I neither will, nor can Prognosticate

To the young gaping Heir, his Father’s Fate:

Nor in the Entrails of a Toad have pry’d,

Nor carry’d Bawdy Presents to a Bride:

For want of these Town Virtues, thus, alone,

I go conducted on my way by none:

Like a dead Member from the Body rent;

Maim’d and unuseful to the Government.

Who now is lov’d, but he who loves the Times,

Conscious of close Intrigues, and dipt in Crimes:

Lab’ring with Secrets which his Bosom burn,

Yet never must to publick light return;

They get Reward alone who can Betray:

For keeping honest Counsels none will pay.

He who can Verres, when he will, accuse,

The Purse of Verres may at Pleasure use:

But let not all the Gold which Tagus hides,

And pays the Sea in Tributary Tides,

Be Bribe sufficient to corrupt thy Breast;

Or violate with Dreams thy peaceful rest.

Great Men with jealous Eyes the Freind behold,

Whose secrecy they purchase with their Gold.

I haste to tell thee, nor shall some oppose,

What Confidents our Wealthy Romans chose:

And whom I most abhor: To speak my Mind,

I hate, in Rome, a Grecian Town to find:

To see the Scum of Greece transplanted here,

Receiv’d like Gods, is what I cannot bear.

Nor Greeks alone, but Syrians here abound,

Obscene Orontes diving under Ground,

Conveys his Wealth to Tyber’s hungry Shoars,

And fattens Italy with Foreign Whores:

Hether their crooked Harps and Customs come;

All find Receipt in Hospitable Rome.

The Barbarous Harlots croud the Publick Place:

Go Fools, and purchase the unclean Embrace;

The painted Mitre court, and the more painted Face.

Old Romulus, and Father Mars look down,

Your Herdsman Primitive, your homely Clown

Is turn’s a Beau in a loose tawdry Gown.

His once unkem’d, and horrid Locks, behold

Stilling sweet Oul; his Neck inchain’d with Gold:

Aping the Foreigners, in ev’ry Dress;

Which, bought at greater cost, becomes him less.

Mean time they wisely leave their Native Land,

From Sycion, Samos, and from Alaband,

And Amydon, to Rome they Swarm in Shoals:

So Sweet and Easie is the Gain from Fools.

Poor Refugies at first, they purchase here:

Ans, soon as Denizen’d, they domineer.

Grow to the Great, a flatt’ring Servile Rout:

Work themselves inward, and their Patrons out.

Quick Witted, Brazen-fac’d, with fluent Tongues,

Patient of Labours, and dissembling Wrongs.

Riddle me this, and guess him if you can,

Who bears a Nation in a single Man?

A Cook, a Conjurer, a Rhetorician,

A Painter, Pedant, a Geometrician,

A Dancer on the Ropes, and a Physician.

All things the hungry Greek exactly knows:

And bid him go to Heav’n, to Heav’n he goes.

In short, no Scythian, Moor, or Thracian Born,

But in that Town which Arms and Arts adorn.

Shall he be plac’d above me at the Board,

In Purple Cloath’d, and lolling like a Lord?

Shall he before me sign, whom t’other Day

A small-craft Vessel hither did convey;

Where, stow’d with Prunes, and rotten Figs, he lay?

How little is the Priviledge become

Of being born a Citizen of Rome! […]

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Filed under 1690's, Literature, Poetry, Posted by Matthew Williams, Satire, Translation

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