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Homer or a Virgil, or may raise an original fabric, the offspring of luxuriant imagination; but in vain shall we seek for that intimacy with the human heart, that just discrimination of character, so vitally essential to the popularity and utility of a periodical paper. For these the author must have mixed in the motley world around him, and marked with a penetrating eye the different classes and individuals of mankind, in order to select with judgment, for censure or for praise, their more prominent features, and with a view toward furnishing that dramatic form which alone can give birth to the exquisite conceptions of humour.
"A series of papers thus constituted, and forming a whole, replete with wit, fancy, and instruction, has been proved by long experience not only the most useful but the most interesting and popular of publications. Each sex, every rank, and every stage of society, have been alike amused and benefitted by these productions. Courtesy, etiquette, and dress, as well as morals, criticism, and philosophy, have learnt to obey their dictates; and many important truths, many sage lessons for life, have, by approaching under the disguise of a trivial and
fashionable topic, found their way to, and made their due impression upon, those whom no other channel could reach.
"Even in the present age, when literature is to a certain degree diffused through almost every department, and when refinement nearly borders upon excess, essays constructed in the original mould still charm. Though the rudeness, the grossness, and improprieties, which called forth the wit or the invective of our early essayists, no longer exist, there is still a most abundant crop of petty vice and folly, of vanity and affectation, which, though assuming a more polished surface, as loudly demands excision. Our manners too, though somewhat softened down and amalgamated by the progress of civilization, still bear strongly the marks of individual modification, and still furnish to the attentive and experienced observer numerous original and high-wrought characters; whilst, at the same time, the taste for cadence of period and harmony of style, for the luxuries of fiction and the elegancies of critical discussion, now so widely disseminated, presents an ample field for variety and grace. In proof of these remarks it may be observed, that from the first appearance of the Tatler to the present day, no period
has been absolutely devoid of periodical essays; and it can with equal justice be affirmed, that they form a most splendid and highly valuable branch of our national literature. The greatest masters of our language, the classical writers of their age, have exerted the noblest efforts of their genius, and afforded us the finest specimens of their composition, whilst employed in the execution of those beautiful designs, which, if considered for a moment in the light of highly finished pictures, how vividly do they express the style and manner of their respective artists! In Addison we discern the amenity and ideal grace of Raphael; in Johnson the strength and energy of Michael Angelo; in Hawkesworth the rich colouring and warmth of Titian; the legerity and frolic elegance of Albani in the productions of Moore, Thornton, and Colman ; the pathetic sweetness of Guido in the draughts of Mackenzie ; and the fertility and harmonious colouring of Annibale Caracci in the vivid sketches of Cumberland.
"From such an assemblage of diversified excellence, he must be fastidious indeed who receives not the most pleasurable emotions; and incapable of instruction, if he leaves it not a better nor a wiser man. The grave, the gay,
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-existence 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