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his death, attended by peculiar horrors, affords too useful a lesson to all propagators of impiety, to be passed over in this place.
The Abbé Barruel, in his Memoirs of Jacobinism, gives the following dreadful account of his latter end : “ Then would succeed the horrid remembrance of his conspiracy; they could hear him, the prey of anguish and dread, alternately supplicating or blaspheming that God, whom he had conspired against, and in plaintive accents would he cry out, Oh Christ! Oh Jesus Christ! And then complain that he was abandoned by God and man. The hand which had traced in ancient writ the sentence of an impious and reviling King, seemed to trace before his eyes, Crush then, do crush the wretch. In vain he turned his head away, the time was coming apace when he was to appear before the tribunal of Him he had blasphemed, and his physicians, particularly Mr. Tronchin, calling in to administer relief, thunderstruck, retire, declaring the death of the impious man to be terrible indeed. The pride of the conspirators would willingly have suppressed these declarations, but it was vain: the Mareschal de Richelieu Aies from the bed-side, declaring it to be a sight too terrible to be sustained, and Mr. Tronchin, that the furies of Orestes would give but a faint idea of those of Voltaire.” (Vol. i. p. 344. See also the British Critic, vol. x. p. 168.) Cowper has mentioned Voltaire in his Poem on TRUTH:
The path to bliss abounds with many a snare ;
And, smother'd in't at last, is prais'd to death! I have made some observations on this subject in the Introduction to a Collection of Songs, 4to p. 13.-12mo p. 28,
A very commendable instance of the Audience censuring improprieties in an Author, and the Author acquiescing and altering them, is to be seen in a Note to the Prologue to Sir John Cockle at Court, by Dodsley. In the Prologue are these two lines :
Small faults, we hope, with candour you'll excuse,
Nor harshly treat a self-convicted muse.
“ These two lines were added after the first night's performance, occasioned hy some things which the Audience very justly found fault with; and which, the second time, were left out, or altered as much as possible; and the Author takes this opportunity of thanking the Town for so judiciously and favourably correcting him.”
SCHILLER, the author of The Robbers, has since acknowledged with great candour, and reprobated in the strongest terms, the pernicious tendency of his own production. See an Account of the German Theatre, by Henry Mackenzie, Esq. in the second volume of the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh ; also Gisborne's Duties of Women, ch. ix. p. 176.
To these instances I shall add an extract from The COURIER, for Thursday December the 8th 1808.
DRURY-LANE.- An incident occurred yesterday evening, which, we believe, is without any precedent in theatrical history. After the second act of Venoni, the new melo-dramatical play, Mr. WROUGHTON came forward, and addressed the audience. He said that the Proprietors, always studying the public gratification, had observed, and considered the disapprobation with which the third act of Venoni was constantly received; that the Author had accordingly constructed a new third act, which would be ready for representation on Monday evening, and which, it was confidently hoped, would merit the approbation of the audience. Mr. WROUGHTON concluded his address, by intreating that the spectators would, in the mean time, accept the repetition of the original catastrophe; and retired amidst universal applauses. The measure of alteration, though its novelty may excite astonishment, is one for which, in our opinion, the Managers and the Author deserve much commendation --the Managers, inasmuch as they have shewn themselves attentive to the voice of the public; and the Author, as a singular example of a poet's openness io conviction.”
This is an example, which we hope will be followed with equal, or
still greater readiness by all parties, when more important interests may require alterations to be made.
E. p. 82. Some instances of such cordial and reverential allusions to the Great Instructor and his Doctrines are given in the Notes to Discourse II. Note Z. p. 190, &c.
But the poet, whose mind, above all others with which I am acquainted, appears to me to be most completely Christian, is Cow PER. There are but few things in Cowper's Poems to which I object; and I had rather be the author of them, than of any others in the whole range of poetry. Other poets may shew more of what is called genius and of learning; but Cowper, to the beauties and sublimities of poetry, adds the peculiar grace of Christian sentiment: and I hold it no inconsiderable test of the taste and piety of the agę, that Cowper's Poems have had a wider circulation than perhaps almost any other work within the same space of time. It is a proof to me, that were proper subjects and sentiments proposed to the public, in a suitable dress, not disgraced by any admixture of impurity, profaneness, vulgarity, or fanaticism, they would be received by the majority with avidity and cordiality.
To the name of Cowper I will add those of Dr. WATTS, Young (though with considerable deductions,) Byrom, BISHOP HORNE, MRS. MORE, and MR. GISBORNE.
F. p. 82. In that admirable work, RURAL PHILOSOPHY: or Reflections on Knowledge, Virtue and Happiness, chiefly in reference to a Life of Retirement in the Country : By ELY BATEs, Esq. in the Third Part, which is Reflections on Happiness, and Section II. The Pleasures of a Literary Retirement, $. 2. On the Pleasures of Poetry ; their Nature and Value, p. 268. 2nd Edition, are the following observations, which are equally applicable to both authors and readers :
“ The human mind, perhaps from some latent consciousness of its origin, is ever looking out for something more perfect than is now to be found actually existing in sublunary nature; and when it meets with this, in the descriptions of poets, it is struck with pleasing admiration. It loves to find itself transported into ideal scenes, where by the power of genius, the scattered beauties of creation are collected and happily combined; and to be introduced to the contemplation of actions and characters, wrought up beyond the standard
of real life. Nor do I know that it is always unlawful, amidst this disordered world, and in the absence of higher remedies, to yield for a moment to this kind of enchantment; nor does it seem impossible, that such images of excellence, by rousing and elevating the human faculties, may lead to inquiries after the perfection of our original state.
As poetry, however, is one of the most powerful instruments of our pleasure, we ought cautiously to examine, whether the pleasure it affords be at least innocent. Whenever we are pleased, it is because some principle within us is gratified; and as this is good or evil, so is the pleasure we experience from it. If we are delighted, for instance, with the Iliad of Homer, it is because it finds something correspondent with the state of our own minds, and there is need to inquire, whether our delight does not spring from a secret sympathy with that ambition of superiority, that indignant pride, and that implacable resentment, which are the predominant passions exhibited in this celebrated poem. If we are exalted into rapture in the read. ing of Milton, we should strictly question ourselves, whether it is not more from the proud adventurous opposition of Satan, and his rebel host, than from a view of the character and perfections of the Almighty, manifested in his condescending grace to man, and in the execution of his righteous vengeance upon his enemies.*
* " It has been observed by some, and the remark I apprehend is not entirely without foundation, that Milton's hero is Satan. Instead of a rebel against the just authority and laws of his benign Creator, this malignant chief is frequently represented under the character of a generous patriot, who sacrifices his own personal ease and safety to the comnion cause of liberty and equality, of natural rights and original independence. And as the pride of human nature is not indisposed to set up the same claims, it is probable that their assertion, though from the lips and by the efforts of an apostate spirit, may have contributed its share to the general applause with which the Paradise Lost has been received in the world, and which it merits by much better titles. But my design in this note is not so much to tax the equivocal and captious
pretensions now excited, as to put the younger reader upon his guard | against the fascination of superior genius, when employed rather to elevate and adorn its subject, than to place it in its due light; and to recommend to his particular attention, the following canon of sound criticism, namely, that Nothing is truly either sublime or beautiful
Or (to descend from this height) if we are enchanted with the Dramas of Shakspeare (one of the great idols of the time) we should examine, whether it is not rather in consequence of the sympathy we find with the vitiated spirit and manners of the world, than of the pleasure we derive from those just views of nature and human life, that frequently occur in the works of this extraordinary genius. It may be said, indeed, that our delight may arise from the talents displayed by an author, separate from the morality of his performance; but the truth is, that, to a truly virtuous mind, misapplied or prostituted talents can only be an object of grief or indignation.
No pleasure can be purer than the spring from which it flows, and the springs of Parnassus are commonly polluted; their ordinary quality is to inspire the irascible or sensual passions, to intoxicate rather than innocently to gladden and elevate the spirits. One of the fathers, somewhat harshly, has denominated poetry the wine of demons, from his opinion of its tendency to inflate the mind with pride; and, by a metaphor not harsher, he might have entitled it the cup of Circe, which, according to the fiction of Homer, transformed the followers of Ulysses into brutes. From the severity of this censure there are, however, many poetical works, both in our own and in other languages, which ought to be exempted; and some which merit a degree of praise, not only as they are suited to amuse the imagination, but also to raise the sentiments and purify the passions. I speak with reserve, because an art, whose professed object is in general to captivate through the medium of pleasure, is liable to just suspicion, and ought never to be entertained with favour, but when it appears under its proper subordinate character, either as a humble assistant to devotion, or when it follows in the train of reason and philosophy.”
There is likewise a passage of importance upon this head in Jones's Letters from a Tutor to his Pupils, Letter V. which is on Novels.
“ I have sometimes been struck wish the reflection, that few writers, who forge a series of events, look upon their attempt in a serious light, and consider the hazard of the undertaking; how they
which is not just. When tried by this maxim, he may probably find that many shining passages in Milton, which before had dazzled his imagination, and seduced his judgment, will fade away; though many doubtless will st il remain, sufficient to vindicate to their author a place in the very first rank of poets, whether ancient or modern."