« AnteriorContinuar »
an attention to their interefts. He must confider himfelf likewife as a fervant of the public, and fubject to the diftresses of mankind. The pooreft inhabitant of this earth is not beneath his notice, or deferving his contempt. All this forms his political character.
By completing the whole of this fcheme, and giving fuch rules in every part of it, as may make the profeffion fit eafy and comfortable upon him, I fhall, I hope, fatisfy you with regard to what may be expected from your fon, and you will judge how fit and how proper he is to embrace it upon fuch terms. Were all mankind as cautious as you are in fuiting the difpofitions of their children to the ftations which they are afterwards to futain in life, we fhould not find fo many places filled by perfons fo little qualified for them. The generality of parents, in the education of their children, confult either their own eafe, or the perverfe difpofitions of people ill qualified to judge of what will terminate in their own happiness, or fome accidental circumftance which may happen in their family. There is nothing more common than for parents to be fond of exalting their offspring to a higher ftation in the fame line of bufinefs, than they themselves enjoy. Thus, furgeons and apothecaries often breed their eldeft fons phyficians, and attornies educate theirs to the bar. They do not, however, confider the variety of character which they are obliged to fupport, or how far their natural difpofitions are fuited to it. They imagine that perfons of genius will fill every situation with propriety. There cannot, however, be a maxim more fallas cious. Every man is born to fome prevailing character: the poet, the philofopher, the phyfician, the lawyer, the statesman, and the
In the profecution of this fcheme, the Writer throws out many judicious and fome frivolous obfervations. His performance is, on the whole, a commendable one; but we cannot mention it in the fame terms of warm approbation with which we spoke of Dr. Gregory's treatife on the same subject.
ART. V. The Poems of Mark Akenfide, M. D. 4to.
Il. I s.
HE character of Dr. Akenfide, as a poet, cannot be unknown to any of our Readers who are conversant in polite literature. It will, we believe, be admitted by thofe who are acquainted with his writings, that they defervedly ftand in no mean rank among the poetical productions of the prefent age. The Doctor was poffeffed of a fine imagination, to which were added great ftrength and freedom of fentiment, and a confiderable extent of knowledge. Hence he did not ufually apply his genius to light and trivial fubjects, but rendered the embellishments of fancy, and the charm of numbers, fubfervient to the interefts of truth, of morals, of civil and religious liberty.
His two books of Odes have great merit. They are not, indeed, equal to the fublime and beautiful productions of the late
Mr. Gray; but ftill there is in' them a noble vein of poetry, united with manly fenfe, and applied to excellent and ufeful purposes. We do not mean, however, to extend this encomium to the whole of Dr. Akenfide's odes without exception. He does not always preferve the dignity of lyric poetry. He is defective in the pathetic, even upon a fubject which peculiarly required it, and where it might most have been expected, the death of his miftrefs. We mean his ode to the Evening Star. Nevertheless, his hymn to Chearfulness, and his odes on leaving Holland, on Lyric Poety, to the Earl of Huntingdon, to the Country Gentlemen of England, and on recovering from a Fit of Sickness, juftly entitle him to a place among the principal lyric writers of this country.
But Dr. Akenfide's poem on the Pleafures of Imagination is the greatest production of his genius. The fubject was a happy one, and how fuccefsfully he has treated it we need not fay, as the work hath been fo long in the poffeffion of the public, has paffed through fuch a variety of editions, and been to generally admired. The late Mr. Cooper fpeaks of it in the following high ftrain of commendation, in his Letters concerning Tafte. "For my part, fays he, I am of opinion, that there is now living a poet of the moft genuine genius this kingdom ever produced, Shakespeare alone excepted. By poetical genius, I do not mean the mere talent of making verfes, but that glorious enthusiasm of foul, that fine frenzy, as Shakespeare calls it, reling from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven, which, like an able magician, can bring every object of the creation, in any shape whatever, before the reader's eyes. This alone is poetry; aught elfe is a mechanical art of putting fyllables harmoniously together. The gentleman I mean is Dr. Akenfide, the worthy Author of the Pleasures of the Imagination, the most beautiful didactic poem that ever adorned the English, or any other, language. A work in which the great Author has united Virgil's tafte, Milton's colouring, and Shakespeare's incidental expreffion, with a warmth peculiar to himself, to paint the finest features of the human mind, and the most lovely forms of true religion and morality." The fober critic will not, we apprehend, give his affent to this extravagance of applaufe. But the fober critic will allow the Pleafures of Imagination to be a noble and beautiful poem, exhibiting many bright difplays of genius and fancy; and painting, with great energy, the finest features of the human mind, with the moft lovely forms of true religion and morality."
Dr. Akenfide himself had not, however, fo high an opinion of his work, as was entertained of it by his friend Mr. Cooper. The Doctor regarded it as defective in fome refpects, and redundant in others. That it wanted revifion and corication, Ġ § Tays
REV. Dec. 1772.
fays his Editor, he was fufficiently fenfible; but fo quick was the demand for feveral fucceffive republications, that in any of the intervals to have completed the whole of his corrections was utterly impoffible; and yet to have gone on from time to time making farther improvements in every new edition would (he thought) have had the appearance at least of abufing the favour of the public. He chofe, therefore, to continue for some time reprinting it without alteration, and to forbear publishing any corrections or improvements until he should be able at once to give them to the public complete. And with this view he went on for feveral years to review and correct his poem at his leifure; till at length he found the talk grow fo much upon his hands, that, delpairing of ever being able to execute it fufficiently to his own fatisfaction, he abandoned the purpose of correcting, and refolved to write the poem over anew, upon a fomewhat different and an enlarged plan.'
Dr. Akenfide did not live to finish the whole of his design. That part of it which was carried into execution is here prefented to the public; and, that our Readers may judge of the Doctor's intentions, we fhall lay before them the general argument of the poem:1
The pleasures of the imagination proceed either from natural objects, as from a flourishing grove, a clear and murmuring fountain, a calm fea by moon-light; or from works of art, fuch as a noble edifice, a mufical tune, a ftatue, a picture, a poem. In treating of thefe pleafures, we must begin with the former clafs; they being original to the other; and nothing more being neceffary, in order to explain them, than a view of our natural inclination toward greatnefs and beauty, and of thofe appearances, in the world around us, to which that inclination is adapted. This is the fubject of the first book of the following pocm.
But the pleafures which we receive from the elegant arts, from mufic, fculpture, painting, and poetry, are much more various and complicated. In them (befides greatnefs and beauty, or forms proper to the imagination) we find interwoven frequent reprefentations of truth, of virtue and vice, of circumftances proper to move us with laughter, or to excite in us pity, fear, and the other paffions. These moral and intellectual objects are defcribed in the fecond book; to which the third properly belongs as an episode, though too large to have been in'cluded in it.
With the above mentioned caufes of pleafure, which are univerfal in the courfe of human life, and appertain to our higher faculties, many others do generally concur, more limited in their operation, or of an inferior origin: fuch are the novelty of objects, the affociation of ideas, affections of the bo
dily fenfes, influences of education, national habits, and the like. To illuftrate thefe, and from the whole determine the character of a perfect tafle, is the argument of the fourth book. Hitherto the pleasures of the imagination belong to the human fpecies in general. But there are certain particular men whofe imagination is endowed with powers, and fufceptible of pleafures which the generality of mankind never participate. These are the men of genius, deftined by nature to excel in one or other of the arts already mentioned. It is propofed, therefore, in the laft place, to delineate that genius which in some degree appears common to them all; yet with a more peculiar confideration of poetry: inafmuch as poetry is the most extenfive of thofe arts, the moft philofophical and the most useful.'
The Author intended at firft to comprize the whole of his fubject, according to the new plan, in four books; but he afterwards changed his purpofe, and determined to diftribute the poem into a greater number of books. How far his scheme would have carried him, if he had lived to complete it, is uncertain; for at his death he had only finifhed the firft and fecond books, a confiderable part of the third, and the introduction to the laft.
The first book of the improved work bears a nearer resemblance to the first book of the former editions, than any of the reft do to each other. There are, nevertheless, in this book, a great number of corrections and alterations, and several confiderable additions. Dr. Akenfide has introduced a tribute of refpect and affection to his friend Mr. Dyfon. He has referred the pleasures of the imagination to two fources only, Greatness and Beauty, and not to three, as he had heretofore done. His delineation of beautiful objects is much enlarged; and, upon the whole, we are of opinion that the first book has received no fmall degree of improvement.
It will probably be a pleasure to our Readers, to have an opportunity of comparing fome of the paffages which retain the greatest affinity:
For its own eye doth objects nobler ftill
The breaft with fancy's native arts indow'd
Ye guardians of the facred tafk, attend
EDITION., With what attractive charms this goodly frame.
Of nature touches the confenting hearts Of mortal men; and what the pleasing ftores
Which beauteous imitation thence derives
Of Mufical Delight! and while I fing
Thou, fmiling queen of every tuneful
breaft, Indulgent Fancy! from the fruitful banks Gg 2