Page images
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][graphic]
[graphic][ocr errors]



MODERN critic is a corrector of the press, gratis; and as he does it for nothing, so it is to no purpose. He fancies himself clerk of Stationers' Hall, and nothing must pass current that is not entered by him. He is very severe in his supposed office, and cries, "Woe to ye scribes," right or wrong. He supposes all writers to be malefactors without clergy, that claim the privilege of their books, and will not allow it, where the law of the land and common justice do. He censures in gross, and condemns all without examining particulars. If they will not confess and accuse themselves, he will rack them until they do. He is a committee man in the Commonwealth of Letters, and as great a tyrant; so is not bound to proceed but by his own rules, which he will not endure to be disputed. He has been an apocryphal scribbler himself; but his writings wanting authority he grew discontent, and turned apostate, and thence becomes so severe to those of his own profession. He never commends anything but in opposition to something else, that he would undervalue, and commonly sides with the weakest, which is generous anywhere but in judging. He is worse than an index expurgatorius; for he blots out all, and when he cannot find a fault, makes one. He "demurs" to all writers, and when he is "overruled," will run into "contempt." He is always bringing "writs of error," like a pettifogger, and "reversing of judgments," though the case be never so plain. He is a mountebank, that is always quacking of the infirm and diseased parts of books, to show his skill; but has nothing at all to do with the sound. He is a very ungentle reader, for he reads sentences on all authors that have the unhappiness to come before him; and therefore pedants, that stand in fear of him, always appeal from him beforehand, by the names of Momus and Zoilus, complain sorely of his extrajudicial proceedings, and protest against him as corrupt, and his judgment "void and of none effect;" and put themselves into the protection of some

powerful patron, who,

like a knight-errant, is to encounter with the magician, and free them. from his enchantments.




IT T is indeed a thing so versatile and multiform, appearing in so many shapes, so many postures, so many garbs, so variously apprehended by several eyes and judgments, that it seemeth no less hard to settle a clear and certain notion thereof, than to make a portrait of Proteus, or to define the figure of a fleeting air. Sometimes it lieth in pat allusion to a known story, or in seasonable application of a trivial saying, or in forging an apposite tale sometimes it playeth in words and phrases, taking advantage from the ambiguity of their sense, or the affinity of their sound: sometimes it is wrapped in a dress of humorous expression: sometimes it lurketh under an odd similitude: sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quirkish reason, in a shrewd imitation, in cunningly diverting or cleverly retorting an objection: sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart irony, in a lusty hyperbole, in a startling metaphor, in a plausible reconciling of contradictions, or in acute nonsense : sometimes a scenical representation of persons or things, a counterfeit speech, a mimical look or gesture passeth for it: sometimes an affected simplicity, sometimes a presumptuous bluntness, giveth it being: sometimes it riseth from a lucky hitting upon what is strange, sometimes from a crafty wresting obvious matter to the purpose: often it consisteth in one knows not what, and springeth up one can hardly tell how. Its ways are unaccountable and inexplicable, being answerable to the numberless rovings of fancy and windings of language. It is, in short, a manner of speaking out of the simple and plain way, (such as reason teacheth and proveth things by,) which, by a pretty surprising uncouthness in conceit or expression, doth affect and amuse the fancy, stirring in it some wonder, and breeding some delight thereto. Barrow.


THE excitement of literary composition pretty soon subsides with the hired labourer, and the delight of seeing one's self in print only extends to the first two or three appearances in the magazine or newspaper page. Pegasus put into harness, and obliged to run a stage every day, is as prosaic as any other hack, and won't work without his whip or his feed of corn.


« PreviousContinue »