Page images

piness and ease, and left it to be engraved on his tomb, "that no circumstances are so desperate, which Providence may not relieve."




I WILL not undertake to mark out with any sort of precision, that idea which I would express by the word grace; and perhaps, it can no more be clearly described than justly defined. To give, however, a general intimation of what I mean, when I apply that term to compositions of genius, I would resemble it to that easy air, which so remarkably distinguishes certain persons of a genteel and liberal cast. It consists not only in the particular beauty of single parts, but arises from the general symmetry and construction of the whole. An author may be just in his sentiments, lively in his figures,

[ocr errors]

and clear in his expressions; yet may have no claim to be admitted into the rank of finished writers. These must be so agreeably united as mutually to reflect beauty upon each other; their arrangement must be so happily disposed as not to admit of the least transposition without manifest prejudice to the entire piece. The thoughts, the metaphors, the allusions, and the diction, should appear easy and natural, and seem to arise like so many spontaneous productions, rather than as the effects of art or labour.

Whatever, therefore, is forced or affected in the sentiments; whatever is pompous or pedantic in the expression, is the very reverse of grace. Her mien is neither that of a prude nor a coquet; she is regular without formality; and sprightly without being fantastical. Grace, in short, is to good writing what a proper light is to a fine picture; it not only shews all the figures in their several proportions and relations, but shews them in the most advantagecus man


As gentility appears in the minutest action, and improves the most inconsiderable gesture; so grace is discovered in the placing even of a single word, or the turn of a mere expletive. Neither is this inexpressible quality confined to one species of composition only, but extends to

all the various kinds; to the humble pastoral as well as to the lofty epic; from the slightest letter to the most solemn discourse.

I know not whether Sir William Temple may not be considered as the first of our prose authors, who introduced a graceful manner into our language; at least that quality does not seem to have appeared early or spread far, among us. But wheresoever we may look for its origin, it is certainly to be found in its highest perfection in the Essays of an author, whose writings will be distinguished as long as politeness and good sense have any admirers. That becoming air which Tully esteemed the criterion of fine composition, and which every reader, he says, imagines so easy to be imitated, yet will find so difficult to attain, is the prevailing characteristic of all that excellent author's most elegant performances. In a word, we may justly apply to him what Plato, in his allegorical language, says of Aristophanes; that the Graces having searched all the world for a temple wherein they might for ever dwell, settled at last in the breast of Mr. ADDISON.




IT is extremely hard to define Nothing in positive terms, I shall therefore do it in negative. Nothing then is not Something. And here I must object to an error concerning it, which is that it is in no place, which is an indirect way of depriving it of existence; whereas indeed it possesses the greatest and noblest place on this earth, viz. the human brain. But, indeed, this mistake has been sufficiently refuted by many wise men ; who having spent their whole lives in the contemplation and pursuit of Nothing, have at last gravely concluded that there is Nothing in this world.

Farther as Nothing is not Something, so every thing which is not Something is Nothing; and wherever Something is not, Nothing is; a very large allowance in its favour, as must appear to persons well skilled in human affairs. For in

stance, when a bladder is full of wind, it is full of Something; but when that is let out we aptly say there is Nothing in it. The same may be as justly asserted of a man as of a bladder. However well he may be dawbed with lace, or with titles; yet if he have not Something in him, we may predicate the same of him as of an empty bladder.

But if we cannot reach an adequate knowledge of the true essence of Nothing, no more than we can of matter; let us in imitation of the experimental philosophers, examine some of its properties or accidents.

And here we shall see the infinite advantages which Nothing has over Something; for while the latter is confined to one sense, or two perhaps at the most, Nothing is the object of them


For first Nothing may be seen, as is plain from the relation of persons who have recovered from high fevers; and perhaps may be suspected from some (at least) of those who have seen apparitions both on earth, and in the clouds. Nay, I have often heard it confessed by men, when asked what they saw at such a place, and time, that they saw Nothing. Admitting that there are two sights, viz. a first and second sight, According to the firm belief of some, Nothing

« EelmineJätka »