« AnteriorContinuar »
Character of Fenelon's Writings........ Lord Lyttelton. 207
Comparative Merit of Swift and Addison.Lord Lyttelton. 212
Comparative Merit of English and French Poets.
Lord Lyttelton. 217
The same Subject.
An Absolute and Limited Monarchy compared.
Lord Lyttelton. 237
Responsibility of Kings in the Article of War. Shakspeare. 241
The Power of Conscience.................Shakspeare. 244,
A Grave Scene.......
FROM THE MOST
EMINENT PROSE WRITERS.
ON THE GREAT HISTORICAL AGES. EVERY age has produced heroes and politicians ; all nations have experienced revolutions; and all histories are nearly alike, to those who seek only to furnish their memories with facts; but whoever thinks, or, what is still more rare, whoever has taste, will find but four ages in the history of the world. These four happy ages are those in which the arts were carried to perfection; and which, by serving as the era of the greatness of the human mind, are examples for posterity.
The first of these ages, to which true glory is annexed, is that of Philip and Alexander, or that of a Pericles, a Demosthenes, an Aristotle, a Plato, an Apelles, a Phidias, and a Praxiteles; and this honour has been confined within the limits
of ancient Greece; the rest of the known world was then in a state of barbarism.
The second age is that of Cesar and Augustus, distinguished likewise by the names of Lucretius, Cicero, Titus Livius, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Varro, and Vitruvius.
The third is that which followed the taking of Constantinople by Mahomet II. Then a family of private citizens was seen to do that which the kings of Europe ought to have undertaken. The Medicis invited to Florence the learned, who had been driven out of Greece by the Turks.—This was the age of Italy's glory. The polite arts had already recovered a new life in that country; the Italians honoured them with the title of virtu, as the first Greeks had distinguished them by the name of wisdom. Every thing tended towards perfection; a Michael Angelo, a Raphael, a Titian, a Tasso, and an Ariosto, flourished. The art of engraving was invented; elegant architecture appeared again, as admirable as in the most triumphant ages of Rome; and the Gothic barbarism, which had disfigured Europe, in every kind of production, was driven from Italy, to make way for good taste.
The arts, always transplanted from Greece to Italy, found themselves in a favourable soil, where they instantly produced fruit. France, England, Germany, and Spain, aimed, in their turns, to gather these fruits ; but either they could not live in those climates, or else they degenerated very fast.
Francis I. encouraged learned men, but such as were merely learned men: be had architects; but
he had no Michael Angelo, nor Palladio : he en. deavoured in vain to establish schools for painting; the Italian masters whom he invited to France, raised no pupils there. Some epigrams and a few loose tales, made the whole of our poetry, Rabelais was the only prose writer in vogue, in the time of Henry II.
In a word, the Italians alone were in possession of every thing that was beautiful, excepting niusic, which was then but in a rude state, and experimental philosophy, which was every where equally unknown.
Lastly, the fourth age is that known by the name of the age of Louis XIV. and is perhaps that which approaches the nearest to perfection of all the four ; enriched by the discoveries of the three former ones, it has done greater things, in certain kinds, than those three together. The arts, indeed, were not carried further than under the Medicis, Augustus, and Alexander; but human reason was in general more improved. In this
became acquainted with sound philo. sophy. It may truly be said, that from the last years of cardinal Richelieu's administration till those which followed the death of Louis XIV, there has happened such a general revolution in our arts, our genius, our manners, and even in our government, as will serve as an immortal mark to the true glory of our country. This happy infuence has not been confined to France; it has communicated itself to England, where it has stirred up an emulation which that ingenious and deeply-learned nation stood in need of at that time; it has introduced taste into Germany, and the
age we fir