Зображення сторінки
[ocr errors]


certainty be attributed to Fielding, bear such obvious signs of haste that it is scarcely fair to oppose any of them to the more finished and leisurely efforts of Addison. Another of Fieiding's enterprises in the “ Spectator” vein was

ne Covent Gai den Journal," 1752. This, besides a remarkable paper on the “ Choice of Books,” contains a masterly essay on “ Profan. ity, "* including a character sketch of the most vigorous kind, but the very fidelity of the picture unfits it for a modern audience.

Concurrently with the “ Covent Garden Journal appeared the final volume of Johnson's

Rambler,” a work upon the cardinal defect of which its author laid his finger when, in later life, he declared it to be “too wordy.” Coming from the Archpriest of magniloquence, this is no light admission. He seems also to have been fully alive to its want of variety, and frequently regretted that his labors had not been occasionally relieved by some lighter pen, in which connection (according to Arthur Murphy) he was accustomed to quote sonorously his own fine lines to Cave:

“ Non ulla Musis pagina gratior,
Quam quæ severis ludicra jungere
Novit, fatigatamque nugis

Utilibus recreare mentem.


[ocr errors]

Lady Mary said in her smart way that the “ Rambler” followed the 66


"a packhorse would do a hunter”; but slow-paced and lumbering as it is, no one can fail to recognize the frequent majesty of the periods and the uniform vigor of the thought. In the twentynine papers which Johnson wrote for Hawkesworth's “ Adventurer," the “Rambler” style is maintained. In the “Idler," however, which

* “Covent Garden Journal,” Nos. 10 and 33.

belongs to a later date, when its author's mind was unclouded, and he was comparatively free from the daily pressure of necessity, he adopts a simpler and less polysyllabic style. It is true that he still speaks of the changes of the barometer as “ the fallacious promises ... of the oraculous glasses ” ; but his themes are less didactic, and, in an unwieldy fashion, almost playful. To select positively humorous examples from his papers would, notwithstanding, be a difficult task. Compared with the somewhat similar productions of earlier essayists,* the oft-praised “ Journey in a Stage-Coach” of the

Adventurer” is poor; but his large knowledge of literature and literary life gives point to the portrait of that inimitably commonplace critic

Dick Minim,” though even here Addison has anticipated him with “Sir Timothy Titile." + “ Dick Minim” appears to have suggested three letters from Reynolds, the first of which, on “ Art-Connoisseurs,” we have been tempted to reproduce. Neither Langton nor Thomas Warton, both of whom gave some assistance in the “Idler, supplied anything of more importance than this thoughtful, if not very satirical, paper by Sir Joshua.

As already stated, Johnson was only a contributor to the “ Adventurer,” 1752, the editor and chief writer of which was Dr. Hawkesworth of “ Cook's Voyages,” who was aided by Bathurst, the physician, and Joseph Warton. Hawkesworth,” said Johnson, " is one of my imitators." His strength lay chiefly in the oldfashioned oriental tale, and his social efforts are not very remarkable. In the “Gradation from a Greenhorn to a Blood,” I there is some useful costume; and there are ludicrous passages in *e.g., "Spectator,” No. 132. † " Tatler," No. 165.


I“ Adventurer," No. 100.


66 Jack



ni into any

[ocr errors]

the “ Distresses of an Author invited to read his Play,'

,?* where, by the way, the writer vindicates his claim to be reckoned a follower of "the great Lexicographer,” by speaking of a chance addition to his wig as the pendulous reproach to the honors of my head”; but it would not be possible to admit these two papers, as well as some others in the “ Adventurer, modern collection, without what, when they were written, would have been styled.“ judicious castigation." For our present purpose, therefore, we have borrowed nothing from Hawkesworth and his colleagues.

With the exception of Goldsmith's “ Chinese Letters” in the “ Public Ledger," the most noteworthy of the remaining Essayists are the

World," 1753-6, and the “Connoisseur,'' 1754–6. The editor of the former was Edward Moore, author of some once-popular “ Fables for the Female Sex.” With the assistance of Fielding's friend, Lyttelton, his list of contributors was swelled by a number of aristocratic amateurs, such as Chesterfield, Horace Walpole, Soamé Jenyns, Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, Hamilton Boyle, and the “World” became, par excellence, the Eighteenth-Century journal" written by gentlemen for gentlemen," – "the bow of Ulysses (as one of the writers put it), in which it was the fashion for men of rank and genius to try their strength.” The “ Connoisseur,” on the other hand, was mainly_the work of two friends, George Colman and Bonnel Thornton, the Erckmann-Chatrian of their age. Whether writing separately or together, their style is undistinguishable. They had a few assistants, the most notable of whom were Cowper the poet, and Churchill's friend, the unfortunate Robert Lloyd. From the “ Connoisseur" and the “ World” we have made one or two selections.

*“ Adventurer," No. 52.

" and

On the “ Citizen of the World," 1760–1, there is no need to enlarge. That charm of simplicity and grace, of kindliness and gentle humor, which we recognize as Goldsmith's special property, requires no fresh description. The remaining Essayists of auy importance may be summarily dismissed. From the Edinburgh “ Mirror,” 1779–80, and its sequel the “Lounger," 1785-7, one paper only has been chosen. But there are others which show that Henry Mackenzie, the chief writer, is something more than the watery Sterne of the “ Man of Feeling "Julia de Roubigné,” and that he had gifts as a humorist and character-painter of no mean order. From the Observer” of Richard Cumberland, 1785–90, a large proportion of which is made up of papers on Greek Literature, we have taken nothing.

A retrospect of the Eighteenth-Century Essayists subsequent to the “ Tatler,” “Spectator, and Guardian,” only serves to confirm the supremacy of Addison and Steele. Some of their successors approached them in serious writing; others carried the lighter kinds to considerable perfection; but none (Goldsmith alone excepted) really rivalled them in that happy mingling of the lively and severe, which Johnson envied but could not emulate. In native purity of tone, moreover, they were far in advance of their age, and were certainly not excelled by any of those who followed them. For this reason, no less than for their general superiority, their work preponderates in the present volume.

It is only necessary to add, that as the conditions under which the essays first appeared make it easy to date them accurately, the chronological order' has been adopted in preference to any more elaborate arrangement. With the exception of some retrenchments specified in the notes, and the alteration or suppression of a word now and again, the text of the best editions has been scrupulously followed.


« НазадПродовжити »