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WE have been favoured with a letter from the Editor of The Let
ters fuppofed to have passed between Șt. Evremond and Waller, in which he fays, The Reviewer of that work has made fome mistakes which I am perfuaded you will have the juftice to rectify. He charges the Editor with the difgaftful artifice of paying compliments to himfelf, under the affumption of his characters. He was too hafty in his animadverfion; thofe letters are fometimes apologized for, but never praised. The Editor was incapable of fuch a filly vanity; the mutual compliments that appear in thofe letters, are founded on the well-known merits of the respective characters, allude to their writings, or arise from their lives-thus Waller tells St, Evremond, that his misfortunes fhew how elegantly he can complain. [See St. Evremond's works paffim.] Thus St. Evremond compliments Waller on his fuperior wit and understanding.'
• The Reviewer reckons, among other fictions in this work, the ftory of Grammont's marriage with the Lady Hamilton, but this is not a fiction. The Editor had this anecdote from a person of great distinction, to whom it was communicated by thofe who well knew the family.'
In answer to this charge the Reviewer fays, that he has not imputed the compliments paid by the Editor of the letters to himself as an artifice; but has obferved only, that in reciprocal commendations of the letters by the writer of both parts of the fuppofed correfpondence, there is fomething difgufting. He found in a plaintive letter from St. Evremond to Waller, and in a confolatory letter of Waller to St. Evremond, this expreffion, Your misfortunes fhew how elegantly you can complain.' This has fufficiently the appearance of a compliment to the letter-writer, to produce difguft, and may with as much propriety be referred to the letter written for St. Evremond, as to any paffages fcattered among the letters he wrote for himself. In reply to Waller, St. Evremond, among other things, tells him that he is the moft engaging friend he ever found, and immediately refers to his laft letter for illuftration and proof. The words are thefe:
So kind and yet fo perplexing, fo engaging and yet fo volatile a friend, have I never found. From the beginning of your last letter I expected nothing less than a serious lecture in practical philofophybut we have hardly got to the end of one fentence, till the philofopher, instead of inftructing his friend how to bear with misfortune, writes an encomium on misfortune itself '
If this is not a compliment paid to Waller, in confequence of the letter written for him, it is impoffible to write one, How ingenious, lively, and pleafing muft the letter be, that difplays an engaging vor latility without example, and can at once excite perplexity, admiration, and delight! But the Reviewer has reckoned, among other fictions, the ftory of Grammont's marriage with the Lady Hamilton, which is not a fiction. This he confeffes; but if it is a fault to be ignorant of what it was impoflible he fhould know, he humbly conceives that the Editor of the letters himself is not innocent. Every body does not learn anecdotes from perfons of great distinction, and he hopes it will be generally allowed, that to conclude a fact which had not been recorded, and which was found among fictitious facts, to be itself a fiction, was to conclude rationally.
The Editor of the letters hints, that there are other ftrictures in the Review which might cafily be fet afide; if he will point them out, they fhall be confidered, and, if not defenfible, given up.
VOLUME the FORTY-FIRST.
Les Saifons, Poëme. The Seasons, a Poem.
HIS volume, befides The Seafons, contains feveral little.
have been published
before; they confift of what the French call pieces fugitive, three tales, called, L'Abenaki, Sara Th- and Ziméo; and fome oriental fables.
As the poem only is new, we fhall take no further notice of the rest.
It is impoffible to convey a perfect idea of a poem in any language but that in which it is written; becaufe no perfect idea can be conveyed without extracts; and extracts in a version rather exhibit the tranflator's abilities, than those of the author. Our Readers, however, may form fome judgment of the merit of The Seafons, by the Author's idea of his fubject, as it appears in a preliminary difcourfe, which will fuffer little by a tranflation, and which is, perhaps, one of the beft ellays on paftoral poetry extant: for both thefe reafons, we fhall give it
I have here fubmited to the judgment of the public, a work of a new fpecies, fuch at least as hath not hitherto been attempted in our language. Many perfons, eminent as well for tafte as literature, have thought that neither the particulars of rural nature, nor rural life, could be exhibited in French verfe: but when I began my poem, I had made few reflections; I was young, and what these perfons thought impoffible, appeared to me not even to be difficult.
REV. Vol. xli,
As I was bred up in the country, where I faw the people who were employed in the cultivation of it happy, nothing oc curred in my infancy but rural objects, and men content with their condition. I had obferved, very early in life, the revolutions, the phænomena, the beauties and the bounty of nature; nor could obferve them with indifference. I was delighted with the rural pictures which I found in the writings of Ovid, Virgil, Lucretius, and Horace; and I was prompted by that pleasure to imitate them. I began to write verfes, and the beautiful colours of a fine evening, the fplendor and freshnes of the morning, and the pleafures of a good harveft, were my fubjects. My age was the time when what we love naturally flows into verfe. I had pleafure in painting fuch objects as forcibly ftruck me; I had a paffion for this kind of painting, and if I have mistaken paffion for talents, I have erred in common with many artifts who deferve at leaft the indulgence of the public.
The compofing, and the hearing of poetry, gives pleasure to every man in proportion to his fenfibility. There are few young people who have not written verfes and there is not a tribe of favages in America or Africa, a herd of barbarians in Afia, or a polifhed nation in Europe, without poets and poetry.
The inhabitants of a fert le country, and temperate climate, were the firft that cultivated rural poetry: Daphnis and Theocritus were Sicilians.
Among happy people, whofe employments were embittered neither by toil nor anxiety, men who were born with a genius for poetry, celebrated the quiet felicity which they enjoyed: their theme was their pleafures, of which it was impofiible to fpeak without fpeaking of nature, from whence they were derived they were pleafed with their condition, of which they contemplated the circumftances; they felt an interest in them all, and there were no particulars of a paftoral or rural life, which they judged unworthy of their fong: they had no idea of any other nature than that which fupplied their wants, nor of any other characters or manners than those of the relations, the friends, and neighbours that were dear to them: their pictures were as fimple as their manners; they were juft, though they were ruftic; they painted with exactnefs, and even with grace, but they painted for themfelves: to fhepherds their poems were delightful, but they pleafed lefs thole who were accustomed to the refinements of artificial life.
When many small nations were fwallowed up in one great one; when war and luxury fucceeded to the quiet and fimplicity of rural life, the peasants began to fuffer oppreffion, thote
who were employed in the business of agriculture became flaves, and their life and manners were no longer the subjects of
In thofe fplendid ages, when genius invented the arts, refined luxury, and embellished cities, the country was forgotten: thofe who celebrated its beauties were not heard; and the number of those who were employed about nature, was too few to induce poets to paint her.
But in the ages of reafon and fpeculation, which fucceeded thofe of genius, when the pleafures of luxury were reduced to their juft value, when they inspired lefs enthufiafm because they were better known, mankind became again fenfible to the felicity of a paftoral life, and confcious of the advantages that are derived from agriculture. Agriculture therefore was again honoured, and the peace and innocence which attend it were regretted.
The Sybarites, when they were wearied with their vices and intrigues, began to take pleasure in the contemplation of characters that were fimple and honest, and in remarking the notions and feelings of men not acquainted with luxury and art; they became fond of rural pictures, if it was only becaufe they exhibited objects that were new.
In an age fomething like this, Virgil wrote his Eclogues and Georgics. We may therefore infer, that rural or paftoral poetry is cultivated before men are formed into large and polifhed focieties, and when the pleafures of fuch focieties begin
to lose their relifh.
I am, however, fenfible that Italy was not in either of thefe fituations when the gave us the Aminta, the Phillis of Sciro, and the Paftor Fido: but thefe poems are not, in fact, of the fpecies in queftion: they are paftorals only in name: they exhibit neither rural fcenes, nor rural manners. In the Eclogues of Racan, Segrais, and Fontenelle, it is eafy to difcover that the authors have imitated the ancients and Italians, and not nature.
In our own age, the fimple, the elegant, the melodious Metaftafio, and the Abbé Frugoni, have produced little pieces that abound with pictures of the country which are equally delightful and juft: Thomfon and Phillips have revived paftoral poetry in England, and in Germany it his been carried to a degree of excellence, not known fince Virgil, by Gefher and Haller.
It has now loft its ancient rufticity, and at the fame time is free from the finical affectation, and falfe wit, which difgraced it in the two laft ages. It now juftly delineates noture and manners, though it embellifhes both; the poets whom
I have just mentioned felect their characters indeed, but they do not conceal truth in ornament: they difguife nothing, but they exhibit every thing in the moft favourable light. They have done for their ploughmen and fhepherds, what Racine and Voltaire have done for their heroes; we find our species ennobled in each, but not exaggerated; they are fuch men indeed as we have never feen, but they are fuch as we flatter ourselves may be found they are fuch as we want, fuch as men ought to be, and fuch as we hope fome men are.
In this age paftoral poetry is enriched in a manner unknown to the antients. Philofophy has, if we may be allowed the expreffion, aggrandized and adorned the univerfe; it is now a much more ftriking object than in the ages of ignorance: the progress of fcience in general, particularly in natural philofophy, aftronomy, and chemistry, has made the palace of the world, and its inhabitants, better known. As foon as mankind found new riches in nature, they began to conceive that they might find, ftill more, and therefore examined all objects with the moft diligent and curious attention. By the union of eloquence and philofophy, phyfics is become an agreeable study; its principles have been widely diffufed, and knowledge is grown popular. The language of philofophy, having been thus adopted by the world, may, without impropriety, be admitted into poetry. Poems may be written which require a very confiderable knowledge of nature, and their authors may notwithstanding hope to find readers. The English and the Germans are the fathers of this kind of poetry; the ancients admired and celebrated the country, we admire and fing nature.
This new fpecies of poetry, however, has its laws, which perhaps lie in a fmall compafs: it is certainly not without rules and principles; I will not pretend to lay them down, but I may be permitted to make a few remarks.
This fpecies of poetry, like every other, ought to move the paffions, inculcate truth, convey fentiment, and give plea
To defcribe what is feen in nature affords an opportunity of effecting all thefe purpofes. Nature is fublime, in the immenfity of the ocean and the fky, in vaft defarts, unbounded fpace, and impervious darknefs; in irrefifhible force, inexhauftible foecundity, and innumerable beings. She is fublime in great phænomena; earthquakes, volcanoes, inundations, and torms: fhe is fublime whenever the excites aftonishment or terror. She is great and beautiful, when the prefents fpace of vaft extent, but of which imagination can affign the limits; in rich plains, mountains not craggy and naked, a diverfified country, highly cultivated, and abounding with people, which