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the old, the young, will here find something to arrest attention, and to awaken curiosity; to excite the smile of harmless mirth, or draw forth the tear of pity; to illuminate the page of ancient times, or to invigorate the pursuit of virtue. Such is the useful variety with which these writings teem! 'When I hold a volume of these Miscellanies,' observes an elegant author, and run over with avidity the titles of its contents, my mind is enchanted, as if it were placed among the landscapes of Valais, which Rousseau has described with such picturesque beauty. I fancy myself seated in a cottage, amid those mountains, those valleys, those rocks, encircled by the enchantments of optical illusion. I look and behold at once the united seasons.' All climates in one place, all seasons in one instant.' I gaze at once on a hundred rainbows, and trace the romantic figures of the shifting clouds. I seem to be in a temple dedicated to the service of the Goddess of VARIETY.'
"The invention of a paper calculated for general instruction and entertainment, abounding in elegant literature, appearing periodically, and forming a whole under an assumed name and character, is, without doubt, to be
ascribed to this country, and confers on it no small degree of honour. The TATLER presented to Europe in 1709 the first legitimate model. At this period literature and manners in this island were far distant from the universality and polish which they have since obtained. So widely different indeed was their situation from any thing we are now familiar with, that, in order to place the merit of our early periodical productions in its due light, a slight sketch of their state, as existing in 1709, will, before we enter more at large into our work, be deemed, perhaps, indispensably requisite.
"Though the reign of Queen Anne has been generally termed the Augustan age of literature in this kingdom, owing to the co-existen e of a few celebrated writers, it is astonishing how little, during the greatest part of that period, was the information of the higher and middle classes of society. To the character of the gentleman, neither education nor letters were thought necessary; and any display of learning, however superficial, was, among the fashionable circles, deemed rudeness and pedantry. That general knowledge,' observes Johnson, which now circulates in common talk, was then rarely to be found. Men not
professing learning were not ashamed of ignorance; and, in the female world, any acquaint. ance with books was distinguished only to be censured.' When we reflect, that to express contempt for all literary acquirement was then a certain proof of gentility, and ignorance the characteristic of superior station (a statement which, I believe, previous to the publication of the Tatler, is nearly correct), we ought to hesitate in assigning the epithet of Augustan to this era of our history. We should recollect that two-thirds of the reign of Anne were entirely occupied by politics; that the struggles of faction, the inveterate contentions of the Whigs and Tories, banished for many years, even among the learned, almost all attention to useful and elegant pursuits; and that the commencement of taste, and the diffusion of knowledge, may be dated from the well-timed efforts of Steele and Addison, efforts which illuminated but the latter days of Anne, and were independent of any engagement from the throne. From this time only has the public mind been. powerfully excited to intellectual emulation, and gradually has it acquired that polish and intimacy with literary subjects which distinguish the present age. It is solely indeed to a
nation that has long cherished a strong relish for literature in all its departments, whose taste is correct and pure, and which fosters in her bosom every rising genius, that the title of Augustan can be given, and not to the casual appearance of a few luminaries, surrounded by wastes of interminable darkness.
"That extension of mental light, which was first happily effected by our periodical essayists, and which has by degrees led to the brilliancy we now enjoy, had been for a long time intercepted by the dissolute and licentious manners which the court of Charles the Second had introduced, and which continued for several years after the commencement of the eighteenth century, though in a less virulent manner, to polJute the channels of public decency, and to choke the germs of intellectual excellence.
"Of the success which attended the efforts of Steele and Addison, in the reformation and improvement of their own immediate age, nothing can afford so decisive a proof as the opinions of contemporaries competent to form a just estimate of the result of their labours. We shall only quote one of the numerous productions of this kind. It was published on the close of the Tatler, and affords a very strik
ing and satisfactory detail of the salutary effect of the Tatlers, Spectators, and Guardians, in ameliorating the morals of society, and in accelerating the progress of intellectual acquire
"To GAY, there is every reason to suppose, we are indebted for the description of the moral influence of the Tatler. After regretting the recent decease of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq. he adds, 'to give you my own thoughts of this gentleman's writings, I shall in the first place observe, that there is this noble difference between him and all the rest of our polite and gallant authors: the latter have endeavoured to please the age, by falling in with them, and encouraging them in their fashionable vices and false notions of things. It would have been a jest, some time since, for a man to have asserted that any thing witty could be said in praise of a married state; or that devotion and virtue were any way necessary to the character of a fine gentleman. Bickerstaff ventured to tell the town that they were a parcel of fops, fools, and vain coquettes; but in such a manner as even pleased them, and made them more than half inclined to believe that he spoke truth.