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At the fame
could not discover even a fpark of merit. time, he mentioned Gray's odes, which Johnson has damned fo completely, and in my humble opinion with fo much juftice, as the ftandard of lyric excellence. He did not much admire the Gentle Shepherd. He preferred the Paftor Fido, of which he spoke with rapture, and the Eclogues of Virgil. I pled as well as I could for Allan Ramfay, because I regard him as the fingle unaffected poet whom we have had fince Buchanan.
Proximus haic longo, fed proximus intervallo.
He answered: "It is the duty of a poet to write "like a gentleman. I dislike that homely ftile which fome think fit to call the language of nature and fimplicity, and fo forth. In Percy's reliques too, a few "tolerable pieces are buried under a heap of rubbish. "You have read perhaps Adam Bell Clym, of the Cleugh, "and William of Cloudeflie." I answered yes. "Well
then," faid he, "do you think that was worth printing." He reflected with fome harshnefs on Dr. Goldsmith; and repeated a variety of anecdotes to fupport his cenfure.
They amounted to prove that Goldsmith loved a wench and a bottle; and that a lie, when to ferve a special end, was not excluded from his fyftem of morality. To commit thefe ftories to print, would be very much in the modern tafte; but such proceedings appear to me as an abfolute difgrace to typography.
He never spoke but with ridicule and deteftation of the reviews. He faid that it was not eafy to conceive in what contempt they were held in London. I mentioned a story I had read of Mr. Burke having feduced and dishonoured a young lady, under promife of marriage. "I imagine," faid he," that you have got that fine ftory out of fome of the magazines. If a thing can be lower than the Reviews, they are fo, They once had the impudence to publish a story of a gentleman's having debauched his own fifter; and upon
'inquiry, it came out that the gentleman never had a "fifter. As to Mr. Burke, he is a worthy honeft man. "He married an accomplished girl, without a fhilling of "fortune." I wanted to get the Gentleman's Magazine excepted from his general cenfure; but he would not hear me. He never, he said, looked at a Review, noc even knew the names of the publishers.
He was fond of Pope, and had by heart many favourite paffages; but he disliked the private character of the man. He was, he said, all affectation, and mentioned his letter to Arbuthnot, when the latter was dying, as a confummate fpecimen of canting; which to be fure it is. He had also a very high opinion of Dryden, and loudly extolled his fables. I mentioned Mr. Hume's objections; he replied, "You will learn more "as to poetry by reading one good poem, than by a "thousand volumes of criticifm." He quoted some paffages in Defoe, which breathed, as he thought, the true fpirit of English verfe.
He difliked Meikle's tranflation of the Lufiad, and esteemed the French verfion of that work as far superior. Meikle, in his preface, has contradicted with great franknefs, fome of the pofitions advanced in the Doctor's inquiry, which may perhaps have disgusted him; but in truth, Meikle is only an indifferent rhymer.
You have lately quoted largely from Lord Gardenftoun's Remarks on English Plays; and I observe, that this lively and venerable critic, damns by far the greater part of them. In this fentiment, Dr. Smith, agreed moft heartily with his Lordship; he regarded the French theatre as the standard of dramatic excellence *. He faid, that at the beginning of the prefent reign,
It is entertaining to obferve men of abilities contradict each other or topics apparently fimple. Dr. Smith admired as the very climax of dramatic excellence, Voltaire's Mahomet; on the other hand, Lord Gardenfoun pronounces, that every line in the play betrays a total want of genius, and even of tafte for tragic compofition. It is not my business to balance accounts between his Lordship and the Dodor,
the diffenting minifters had been in ufe to receive two thousand pounds a year from government; that the Earl of Bute had, as he thought, moft improperly deprived them of this allowance, and that he fuppofed this to be the real motive of their virulent oppofition to govern
If you think these notes worthy a place in your mifcellany, they are at your fervice. I have avoided many personal remarks which the Doctor threw out, as they might give pain to individuals, and I commit nothing to your care, which I believe, that I could have much offended the Doctor by transmitting to the press. I am, Sir, Yours &c.
Glasgow April 9th, 1791.
To the Editor of the Bee.
In a bufy country fuch as ours of Great Britain, I confider every man, woman, and child, who does not add to the public ftock, by lucrative industry, as absolutely idle, though relatively, they may be exceedingly active both in body and mind. But there are men and women, whofe rank, fortune and fituation are fuch as to exempt them from the neceffity of profeffional occupation; and fome are almoft precluded from productive employments, fuch as Peers, Peereffes, Archbishhops, Bifhops, Clergy, old Admirals and Generals; for whose use, and the inftruction of the heirs of great estates, who think themselves entitled to be idle, thefe lucubrations are moft humbly dedicated, by a man who has made confiderable proficiency in the art of idlenefs, and is, with great refpect, their moft faithful and obedient fervant, ALBANICUS.
Efay on the Art of Idleness.
HAVING often obferved with difguft, the hackneyed. fubjects of effayifts in newspapers and magazines, not excepting those of the profeffed writers of periodical papers, in imitation of the Spectators, Tatlers, and Guardians, I had figured to myself, about a dozen of years ago, the poffibility of entertaining and inftructing the readers of fuch fugitive pieces, with a feries of papers, on the art of employing leisure and fortune, by the idle and opulent.
When I was thus amufing my imagination with a project of future authorship, in the end of March 1777, I received from a worthy Baronet of my acquaintance, the following letter, which, as it will ferve me for a text, I fhall present a copy of it to my readers, and then proceed to make my reflections; and may the god or goddefsof idleness, if there is, or ever was fuch a faint, bless my endeavours to be useful to my brethren and fifters ! SIR,
"THIS morning only I received your letter of March 12th, fo I find myself doubly a debtor, firft for a vifit, then for the letter; and I find it most for the conveniency of my affairs, firft to pay the last debt.
"I find that time is paffed with you, much in the fame manner as at my refidence.
"I never had any ambition for the reputation of an author, yet I have frequently had it in my head, to write a treatife, which fhould be entitled The Art of Idleness.
"The purport of it would be, to teach men, who had no regular bufinefs, and were above the neceflity of pursuing fome occupation, how to pass their time innocently, agreeably, and even ufefully. I would begin by fhewing that all gamefters, horferacers, with a VOL. III.
great et cætera of fuch useless and pernicious people, did not fall under the head of my treatise, as not being idle men, but ill employed ones, who have all the restlefsness and anxiety of defires unfatisfied, and are therefore to be counted among men of bufinefs. My pupils feek amufements that are innocent, eafy, always in their own power to procure; fuch as improve the mind, and fit it for farther enjoyment, and finally are beneficial to mankind. One of them having nothing to do, inclofes ten barren acres worthy only a fhilling per acre of yearly rent; and whilft he is pleafing himself with feeing his hedges grow, and to find a fresh verdure where there was only blasted heath before, he is agreeably furprised to find his ten acres now yield ten pounds a-year. If a rainy day confine him at home to his house, that is a day of high entertainment, for he will furely fee fome new beauty in Virgil, or other claffic, that he had not obferved before, find out the cause of fome appearance in nature which he had not hitherto explored, feast on a difh of Tacitus, Hume, or Voltaire, or take his pen and write a letter that has nothing in it, to fome one whom he hopes "Suas effe aliquid putare nugas," and pleases himself before hand. with the fatisfaction he shall receive when he gets an anfwer. I would choofe for the motto of this treatise, or rather, I should say the text for this fermon,
"Obferve, my beloved, how my text naturally divides itself into three heads, and how abfolutely neceffary it is that all three fhould concur to form the happy hero of idleness, whom I rather frame to myself in idea, than ever expect to meet with.
"Ift. Equus amavit Jupiter. He must have a happy natural difpofition, as the foundation on which fo magnificent a fuperftructure is to be raised.