ePub 版

sisted, on pressing occasions, with larger sums than they can easily repay. The only visits that he makes are to these houses of misfortune, where he enters with the insolence of absolute command, enjoys the terrours of the family, exacts their obedience, riots at their charge, and in the height of his joy insults the father with menaces, and the daughters with obscenity.

He is of late somewhat less offensive; for one of his debtors, after gentle expostulations, by which he was only irritated to grosser outrage, seized him by the sleeve, led him trembling into the court-yard, and closed the door upon him in a stormy night. He took his usual revenge next morning by a writ; but the debt was discharged by the assistance of Eugenio.

It is his rule to suffer his tenants to owe him rent, because by this indulgence he secures to himself the power of seizure whenever he has an inclination to amuse himself with calamity, and feast his ears with entreaties and lamentations. Yet as he is sometimes capriciously liberal to those whom he happens to adopt as favourites, and lets his lands at a cheap rate, his farms are never long unoccupied; and when one is ruined by oppression, the possibility of better fortune quickly lures another to supply

his place.

Such is the life of squire Bluster ; a man in whose power fortune has liberally placed the means of happiness, but who has defeated all her gifts of their end by the depravity of his mind. He is wealthy without followers; he is magnificent without witnesses; he has birth without alliance, and influence without dignity. His neighbours scorn him as a brute; his dependants dread him as an oppressor; and he has only the gloomy comfort of reflecting, that if he is hated, he is likewise feared.

I am, Sir, &c.


N° 143. TUESDAY, July 30, 1751.

Moveut cornicula risum
Furtivis nudata coloribus.Hor.

Lest when the birds their various colours claim,
Stripp'd of his stolen pride, the crow forlorn

Should stand the laughter of the publick scorn.-Francis. Among the innumerable practices by which interest or envy have taught those who live upon literary fame to disturb each other at their airy banquets, one of the most common is the charge of plagiarism. When the excellence of a new composition can no longer be contested, and malice is compelled to give way to the unanimity of applause, there is yet this one expedient to be tried, by which the authour may be degraded, though his work be reverenced; and the excellence which we cannot obscure, may

be set at such a distance as not to overpower our fainter lustre.

This accusation is dangerous, because, even when it is false, it may be sometimes urged with probability. Bruyere declares, that we are come into the world too late to produce any thing new, that nature and life are pre-occupied, and that description and sentiment have been long exhausted. It is indeed certain, that whoever attempts any common topick, will find unexpected coincidences of his thoughts with those of other writers; nor can the nicest judgment always distinguish accidental similitude from artful imitation. There is likewise a common stock of images, a settled mode of arrangement, and a beaten track of transition, which all authours suppose themselves at liberty to use, and which produce the resemblance generally observable among contemporaries. So that in books which best deserve the name of originals, there is little new beyond the disposition of materials already provided; the same ideas and combinations of ideas have been long in the possession of other hands; and, by restoring to every man his own, as the Romans must have returned to their cots from the possession of the world, so the most inven

tive and fertile genius would reduce his folios to a few pages. Yet the authour who imitates his predecessors only by furnishing himself with thoughts and elegancies out of the same general magazine of literature, can with little more propriety be reproached as a plagiary, than the architect can be censured as a mean copier of Angelo or Wren, because he digs his marble from the same quarry, squares his stones by the same art, and unites them in the columns of the same orders.

Many subjects fall under the consideration of an authour, which, being limited by nature, can admit only of slight and accidental diversities. All definitions of the same thing must be nearly the same; and descriptions, which are definitions of a more lax and fanciful kind, must always have in some degree that resemblance to each other which they all have to their object. Different poets describing the spring or the sea would mention the zephyrs and the flowers, the billows and the rocks; reflecting on human life, they would, without any communication of opinions, lament the deceitfulness of hope, the fugacity of pleasure, the fragility of beauty, and the frequency of calamity; and for palliatives of these incurable miseries, they would concur in recommending kindness, temperance, caution, and fortitude.

When therefore there are found in Virgil and Horace two similar passages

Ha tibi erunt artes
Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos.—Virg.
To tame the proud, the fetter'd slave to free :
These are imperial arts, and worthy thee.-DRYDEN.
Imperet bellante prior, jacentem

Lenis in hostem.-Hor.
Let Cæsar spread his conquests far,

Less pleas'd to triumph than to spare :it is surely not necessary to suppose, with a late critick, that one is copied from the other, since neither Virgil nor Horace can be supposed ignorant of the common duties of humanity, and the virtue of moderation in success.

Cicero and Ovid have on very different occasions remarked how little of the honour of a victory belongs to the general, when his soldiers and his fortune have made their deductions; yet why should Ovid be suspected to have owed to Tully an observation which perhaps occurs to every man that sees or hears of military glories?

Tully observes of Achilles, that had not Homer written, his valour had been without praise.

Nisi Ilias illa extitisset, idem tumulus qui corpus ejus contererat, nomen ejus obruisset. Unless the Iliad had been published, his name had been lost in the tomb that

covered his body. Horace tells us, with more energy, that there were brave men before the wars of Troy, but they were lost in oblivion for want of a poet:

[blocks in formation]

Before great Agamemnon reign'd,

Reign'd kings as great as he, and brave,
Whose huge ambition 's now contain'd

In the small compass of a grave:
In endless night they sleep, unwept, unknown :

No bard had they to make all time their own.—FRANCIS. Tully inquires, in the same oration, why, but for fame, we disturb a short life with so many fatigues ?

Quid est quod in hoc tam exiguo vitæ curriculo et tam brevi, tantis nos in laboribus

exerceamus ? Why in so small a circuit of life should we employ ourselves in so many fatigues?

Horace inquires in the same manner,

Quid brevi fortes jaculamur avo
Why do we aim, with eager strife,

At things beyond the mark of life !---FRANCIS. when our life is of so short duration, why we form such numerous designs ? But Horace, as well as Tully, might discover that records are needful to preserve the memory of actions, and that no records were so durable as poems;

either of them might find out that life is short, and that we consume it in unnecessary labour.

There are other flowers of fiction so widely scattered and so easily cropped, that it is scarcely just to tax the use of them as an act by which any particular writer is despoiled of his garland; for they may be said to have been planted by the ancients in the open road of poetry for the accommodation of their successors, and to be the right of every one that has art to pluck them without injuring their colours or their fragrance. The passage of Orpheus to hell, with the recovery and second loss of Eurydice, have been described after Boetius by Pope, in such a manner as might justly leave him suspected of imitation, were not the images such as they might both have derived from more ancient writers.

Qua sontes agitant metu
Ultrices scelerum deæ
Jam mæsta lacrymis madent,
Non Ixionium caput

Velor præcipitat rota.
The pow'rs of vengeance, while they bear,
Touch'd with compassion, drop a tear :
Irion's rapid wheel is bound,
Fir'd in attention to the sound.-F. Lewis.
Thy stone, 0 Sysiphus, stands still,
Ixion rests upon his wheel,

And the pale spectres dance!
The furies sink upon their iron beds.

Tandem, vincimur, arbiter
Umbrarum, miserans, ait
Donemus, comitem viro,

Emtam carinine, conjugem.
Subdu'd at length, Hell's pitying monarch cry'd,
The song rewarding, let us yield the bride.--F. Lewis.
He sung, and hell consented

To hear the poet's prayer ;
Stern Proserpine relented,
And gave him back the fair.

Heu, noctis prope terminos
Orpheus Eurydicen suam

Vidit, perdidit, occidit.
Nor yet the golden verge of day begun,

When Orpheus, her unhappy lord,
Eurydice to life restor’d,

At once beheld, and lost, and was undone.-F. Lewis.



« 上一頁繼續 »