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undoubtedly, much sensible and sound morality; but it is not a very high order of Christian ethics. It contains much judicious criticism, but certainly not comparable to the deeper philosophy of criticism which has entered into English literature in the present century.* Those papers will always have a semi-historical interest, as picturing the habits and manners of the times—a moral value, as a kindly, good-natured censorship of those manners. In one respect, the Spectator stands unrivalled to this day: I allude to the exquisite humour in those numbers in which Sir Roger de Coverley figures. If any one desire to form a just notion of what is meant by that very inde
Let me, in other and better language than my own, say a word for our classic. "It seems to me," says the greatest of living writers of fiction and the manliest satirist of our times, "that when Addison looks from the world, whose weaknesses he describes so benevolently, up to the heaven which shines over us all, I can hardly fancy a human intellect thrilling with a purer love and adoration than Joseph Addison's. It seems to me his words of sacred poetry shine like stars. They shine out of a great, deep calm. When he turns to heaven, a sabbath comes over that man's mind, and his face lights up from it with a glory of thanks and prayer. His sense of religion stirs his whole being. In the fields, in the town; looking at the birds in the trees at the children in the streets; in the morning or in the moonlight; over his books in his own room; in a happy party at a country merry-making or a town assembly, good-will and peace to God's creatures, and love and awe of Him who made them, fill his pure heart and shine from his kind face. If Swift's life was the most wretched, I think Addison's was one of the most enviable. A life prosperous and beautiful, a calm death, an immense fame and affection afterward for his happy and spotless name."-Thackeray's Lectures on the English Humorists. I may venture to express the hope that the habit of reading the Spectator will not fall into disuse. I know no finer line in any English poet than one of Addison's, when the Moon repeats her wondrous tale
'Nightly to the listening carth."
W. B. R.
finable quality called "humour," he cannot more agreeably inform himself than by selecting the Sir Roger de Coverley papers, and reading them in series.
While Addison was giving to English prose that refinement which was verging, perhaps, to somewhat of feebleness, the strong hand of Swift- -a man with a stronger intellect and a rougher heart-was scattering that vigorous prose which touched the other extreme of coarseness; and Bolingbroke was giving, in his statelier and more elegant diction, that prose the study of which has by some of England's best orators been pronounced an orator's best training.
The chief representative name in the literature of the times of Queen Anne is that of Pope. His rank as a poet has been a subject of much dispute; but it may now, I think, be considered as the settled judgment of the most judicious critics, ardent admirers, too, of Pope's poetry, that his place is not with Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton, the poets of the first order, but with Dryden, in a second rank. Shakspeare alone excepted, perhaps no English poet has furnished a greater amount of single lines for apt and happy quotation, on account either of their force or beauty. In the famous satire on the Duchess of Marlborough occurs this passage:
"Strange! by the means defeated of the ends
By spirit robb'd of power-by warmth, of friends-
furnishes two most characteristic lines; the
first one of great force-a truth from the dark side of humanity, the wasting malady of selfishness:
"Sick of herself through very selfishness."
The other, a beautiful expression of the sense of a good Providence :
"Or wanders, heaven-directed, to the poor."
There is another description of lines in Pope, as favourite in the way of quotation as any: I mean those which express in smooth verse some truism, or commonplace sentiment, or something the very tameness of which makes it untrue. What line has been quoted so often?-you may see it even on tombstones
"An honest man's the noblest work of God."
Does anybody think so? Is honesty so rare? Has it so much of heroism in it, or so much of saintliness, that it is God's noblest work? Surely, the poet must have uttered it in contempt of his fellow-men-must have meant it in
And here we may see what disqualified Pope from being the great moral poet he aspired to be-from being a great poet of the first rank. Whatever was his power of imagination, of fancy, his command of language, or flow of verse, his genius had not that spiritual healthfulness which is a characteristic of our greatest English poets. There is, running through all the writings of Pope, a large vein of misanthropy. It was his habit to proclaim contempt of the world, antipathy to his fellow-beings, except a few choice friends, whom he clung to most faith fully. It is not with such morbid feeling that a poet can
From this criticism I venture to note an earnest dissent.
W. B. R.
either study or expound human nature.
His ministry is
to inspire his fellow-beings with high and happy emotions, to foster a just sense of the dignity of human nature, to make man lowly wise, to cheer him amid his frailties, not to depress him, to animate his heart with faith, and hope, and love, not to chill and harden it with discontent and hatred. Instead of aggravating all that is dark and forlorn in man's mingled nature, it belongs to the poet, of all others, to show that while the son of earth is lying on the earth, lonely, benighted, his head pillowed on a stone, thoughts of a better life, the soul's celestial aspirations, are ascending and descending over him, like angels in the patriarch's dream. For such, the poet's truest ministry, Pope's temperament was unhappily constituted. In a letter to Bishop Atterbury-a serious letter on a serious occasion-addressed to that prelate on the eve of his exile, he asks, “What is every year of a wise man's life but a censure or critic on the past? Those whose date is the shortest, live long enough to laugh at one-half of it: the boy despises the infant, the man the boy, the philosopher both, and the Christian all."* What could have been that notion of philosophy, what that notion of Christianity, which could make one of its attributes contempt, that infirmity of the morbid mind, in the eye of divine wisdom a vice! How different, too, such contempt of the past periods of one's life, from that deeper wisdom which inculcates the moral continuity of our being, showing how important it is for the growth of our spiritual nature that we should so dwell in each partition of our earthly time. that we may move on from one to the other with happy
*Letter, May 17th, 1723. Roscoe's Pope, vol. ix. p. 241.
memories of the past with happy consciousness of its abiding influences!
"The child is father of the man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety."*
It is a characteristic view of human life which Pope gives in such a passage as this:
"Behold the child, by nature's kindly law,
Scarfs, garters, gold, amuse his riper age,
Till tired he sleeps, and life's poor play is o'er."
The "rattle," a "straw," "scarfs, garters, gold, beads, and prayer-books," equally toys and baubles, and ending alike in weariness, and then death or sleep. What a picture of life! what a picture for a poet, whose duty is to dignify and elevate, to draw, of the life of man, who with all his infirmities, is an immortal, gifted with a soul, precious in the sight of his Creator, and not unworthy the awful ransom of the Redeemer's blood! A great moral poet does not so teach. "Life's poor play!" Such is this didactic poet's deliberate doctrine. The image is Shakspeare's, but with a most significant difference:
"Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
There may be noted a coincidence between these familiar lines of Wordsworth and those of Milton:
"The childhood shows the man,
As morning shows the day."
Paradise Regained, B. 4, v. 220. W. B. R.