« EdellinenJatka »
stairs, to mingle his ashes with those of the lovely burthen which he bore.
Thus falls the brave, who sinks to rest,
We must bring this amicting narrative to a close. For our own feelings, as well, we fear, as for those of our readers, we kind that we have dwelt too long on it already. If, however, wo have erred, our sensibility is in fault, and we hope, therefore, to be forgiven by a generous public. We will not, because we canact, depict the perturbation, the agony, the speechless horror, the frantic despair, which overspread the streets of Richmond, while the theatre was in flames in one instance, relatives and friends tortured to frenzy by a dismal uncertainty as to the fate of those that were dear to them—in another, gazing with unsupportable anguish on beloved objects perishing in the flames, without having it in their power to snatch them from destruction in a third, receiving, with keen and conflicting emotions, their blazing and half-burnt bodies, precipitated from the windows-and in a. fourth, prevented by some friendly hand from rushing into the conflagration to attempt their deliverance. Nor will we follow to their chambers, examine their defaced and distorted features, probe their wounds, and listen to their piercing groans, those who were burnt or otherwise maimed and disabled in effecting their escape.
We shall only add, by way of narrative, that on that ever memorable and melancholy occasion, Virginia was suddenly deprived of nearly one hundred of her principal inhabitants-females, who would have added lustre to a court; and males, who would have been distinguished in Greece or Rome, in their proudest days of wisdom and glory. The ashes of most of them are en
tombed on the fatal spot-their virtues and memories live in the hearts and affections of their surviving fellow citizens--their immortal part, we trust, is with their God.
How mutable, how uncertain is the condition of man!-how perishable his hold on mortal existence! Behold a gay and crowded audience, now intent on scenes of delight, a moment afterwards, writhing in agony and sinking in despair-another, and the stillness of death is upon them! an entire city reduced, in an instant, from merriment to mourning from the seat of pleasures and the garden of joys, to the abode of calamity and unutterable wo!
Richmond! afflicted Richmond! accept our sympathy, sincere though unavailing! May He who has given the blow provide the balm, and heal in mercy the wound He has inflicted!
Such is the melancholy picture we have to offer of the memorable and calamitous year 1811. While we acknowledge it to be feeble, thousands and millions can testify that it is just. Whether it be in any measure calculated to move the feelings, excite the imagination, or gratify the taste of our readers, it is theirs to determine, not ours. In the serious and contemplative mind, it will tend to awaken a two-fold sentiment- ratitude at not being numbered with the sufferers of the past, and a deep conviction of the necessity of being prepared to encounter the calamities that may befall us during the present year.
POLITE SCHOLAR.FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
I should be most disgracefully unworthy of the title which I have assumed, if I did not speak, in the tones of rapture, of the merits of Joseph Addison. The most accomplished artificer of words, “ sweet and voluble," of any author, OLIVER GOLDSMITH excepted, that ever moulded the manners, refined the taste, purified the morals, or enkindled the genius of the nations. A polite scholar, unless he be a very idle one, reads, it is well known, every thing which falls in his way, pertinent to his favourite studies. I am at a loss to discover the opulent
exchequer, whence I derived the following golden sentences, plausive of an admired author. It is enough, if I pronounce them sterling, at once current, solid, and shining,
· So much has been written upon the writings of Addison, that it is almost equally superfluous to condemn or to praise him. His beauties have gained him admirers who have considered him as an example of every excellence; while his imperfections have raised against him a host of enemies, who have denied his claim to the title of a philosopher, a critic, and a poet.
The style which Addison has chosen, however it may have been praised by Johnson, as being equally free from pomposity and weakness, is undoubtedly defective. His selection of words, to cxpress the common occurrences of life, is eminently happy, and he produces the ease of common conversation, without debasing his diction by vulgarity of expression. But while he is exact in the choice of his words, he has paid no attention to the harmony of his cadence. The words upon which the force of his sentences principally depends, are frequently placed where they cannot be pronounced, but by rendering the passage weak and inanimate, or the voice is exhausted by the length and confusion of the period. For these reasons, we ought not to consider him as a model of the middle style, but as an example of it. If we wish to gain a style familiar, but not coarse; elegant, but not os. tentatious; we must apply our time to the volumes of the more modern moralists, some of whom have preserved his ease, without copying his weakness; and have united to his purity of language greater melody of period.
But it is not only the characteristic of a good writer, that his style in general is melodious and correct, but that the construction of his period, and the selection of his words, are varied according to the nature of his subject. On light subjects he should be easy, and on grave subjects dignified. He should discant with elegance on the topics of the day, and employ the pomp of language to give energy to greatness of thought, or splendour of expression. If we examine the compositions of Addison by this rule, he will not deserve much praise.
Whether he endeavours to elevate us by sublimity, or to please us by wit, his style is equally without animation. He
employs as little of the force of rhetoric, to paint the grandeur of the universe, as to describe the ornaments of a lady's headdress, and discants with an equal profusion of words upon the extent of eternity and the affectation of a prude.
We sometimes, therefore, turn from a paper, in which every power of learning and of judgment has been employed, without being much impressed by its dignity, or pleased with its truth. The strength of his arguments, and the energy of his thoughts, are frequentiy insufficient to preserve our attention. We feel the merit of the writer, and admire his piety or his knowledge, but are dissatisfied, we know not why, and close his volume without regret. But this effect is not always produced. There is sometimes an ingenuity of remark, and a justness of conception, which even the demerit of his style is unable to conceal. He is particularly fortunate in his selection of all that can add to the interest of his subject. When he wishes to convince, he is generally powerful;—when he cndeavours to persuade, he is always irresistible. To those papers, which are distinguished by wit, or which describe the daily occurrences of life, his style is more particularly applicable. We are not in them disgusted by a dissimilarity of sentiment and language; but our fancy is pleased, and our judgment is satisfied. It is true, that even in the style of these papers, he may be excelled; but his conquerors must owe their elevation to his aid.
If we consider the sentiments of Addison, independent of his style, we shall find much to admire and little to condemn. His writings display in every sentence the man of learning, the philosopher, and the gentleman. His remarks upon life are such as display that knowledge of the world, and that intimacy with the gay, the witty, and the polite, which are necessary to render the fruits of study more valuable and useful. He has the art of descanting upon trifles without minuteness, and of rendering the temporary follies of the day the vehicles of general instruction--the colour of a lady's slipper, or the magnitude of her fan, are converted, in the hands of Addison, into a theme for morality and wit. He seems to persuade as a friend, rather than to correct as a teacher; and rather endeavours to allure our attention by a smile, than to command our reverence by a frown.
But with all his beauties he cannot be considered as entitled to the applause of genius. He displays energy of thought, brilliancy of wit, and extent of learning; but he does not display that creative power, which animates the page of unlettered ignorance. The universality of his reading, has enabled him to illustrate his arguments, and to enforce his precepts by the talents and the authority of the writers of ancient and modern ages; but he never astonishes by unexpected splendour, and seldom delights by sublimity of thought. He has done all that the wit, the scholar, and the gentleman could do; but he has done no more.
His claim to the title of critic, has been denied by men who were remarkable for mistaking affectation for wit, and harshness for dignity; who from the throne of literary despotism, affected to look down with contempt upon all whose superiority endangered their power, and who considered the taste of Addison as a contrast to their own laboured and pedantie ostentation. But whatever reception may be given to the writer who endeavours to veil simplicity in learned obscurity, and to render sublimity unintelligible, the title of a critic must be finally allowed to that man who displays the beauties of an author, and corrects his errors, without deviating from the laws of nature and of taste. To this praise Addison is entitled. He does not judge of the beauty of a metaphor, by observing that it is equalled by Homer, or inform us that a simile is mean because it might have been more exact in the hands of Virgil: when the palm-trees of Asia are mentioned, he does not prove that the passage is contemptible, because it does not agree with the description of Strabo; nor censure Milton as a dunce, because mathematics will not show the propriety of his images.
His merits, as a critic, will be best displayed by inquiring of what his enemies have convicted him. They have proved that he praised an author in proportion to his adherence to nature and to truth; that he never disgusted his readers by mysterious nonsense, nor employed a chapter in rendering perspicuity intelligible; that he never soared upon the clouds of dullness above the bounds of comprehension, nor forgot the beauties of his author to admire the visions of Plato and Pythagoras. Such are the charges of which Addison has been accused, by men whose