Слике страница

sensibilities and a lively fancy superadding clear and comprehensive views of men and manners, writes to the heart with simplicity and chasteness, through a series of adventures well conducted, and relating chiefly to scenes in ordinary life ; where the solid joys of Virtue, and her sacred sorrows, are strongly contrasted with the hollowness and the horrors of vice ; where, by little and unexpected yet natural incidents of the tender and domestic kind, so peculiarly fitted to touch the soul, the most important lessons are impressed, and the most generous sentiments awakened ; where, to say no more, distress occasioned often by indiscre. tions, consistent with many degrees of worth, yet clouding it for the time, is worked up into a storm, such as to call forth the principles of fortitude and wisdom, confirming and brightening them by that exertion ; till at length the bursting tempest is totally, or in a great measure dispelled, so that the hitherto suspended and agitated reader is either relieved entirely, and delighted even to transport, or has left

upon his mind at the conclusion a mixture of virtuous sadness, which serves to fasten the moral deeper, and to produce an unusual sobriety in all his passions.

Amongst the few works of this kind which I have seen, I cannot but look on those of Mr. Richardson as well entitled to the first rank ; an author, of whom an indisputable judge has with equal truth and energy pronounced, " that he taught “ the passions to move at the command of reason : I will venture to add, an author, to whom your sex are under singular obligations for his uncommon attention to their best interests ; but particularly for presenting, in a character sustained through

out with inexpressible pathos and delicacy, the most exalted standard of female excellence that was ever held up to their imitation. I would be understood to except that part of Clarissa's conduct, which the author meant to exhibit as exceptionable. Setting this aside, we find in her character a beauty, a sweetness, an artlessness what shall I say more? a sanctity of sentiment and manner, which, I own for my part, I have never seen equalled in


book of that sort; yet such, at the same time, as appears no way impracticable for any woman who is ambitious of excelling.

Beside the beautiful productions of that incomparable pen, there seem to me to be very few, in the style of Novel, that you can read with safety, and yet fewer that you can read with advantage.What shall we say of certain books, which we are assured (for we have not read them) are in their nature so shameful, in their tendency so pestiferous, and contain such rank treason against the royalty of Virtue, such horrible violation of all deeorum, that she who can bear to peruse them must in her soul be a prostitute, let her reputation in life be what it will. But can it be true--şay, ye

chaste stars, that with innumerable eyes inspect the midnight behaviour of mortals—can it be true, that any young woman, pretending to decency, should endure for a moment to look on this infernal brood of futility and lewdness?

Nor do we condemn those writings only, that, with an effrontery which defies the laws of God and man, carry on their very forehead the mark of the beast. We consider the general run of Novels as utterly unfit for you. Instruction they convey none, They paint scenes of pleasure and passion altogether


improper for you to behold, even with the mind's eye. Their descriptions are often loose and luscious in a high degree; their representations of love between the sexes are almost universally overstrained. All is dotage, or despair ; or else ranting swelled into burlesque. In short, the majority of their lovers are either mere lunatics, or mockheroes. A sweet sensibility, a charming tenderness, a delightful anguish, exalted generosity, heroic worth, and refinement of thought ; how seldom are these best ingredients of virtuous love mixed with any judgment or care in the composition of their principal characters!

In the Old Romance the passion appeared with all its enthusiasm. But then it was the enthusiasm of honour; for love and honour were there the

The men were sincere, magnanimous, and noble ; the women were patterns of chastity, digim nity, and affection. They were only to be won by real heroes; and this title was founded in protecte ing, not in betraying, the sex. The proper merit with them consisted in the display of disinterested goodness, undaunted fortitude, and unalterable fidelity, The turn of those books was influenced by the genius of the times in which they were composed; as that, on the other hand, was nourished by them. The characters they drew were, no doubt, often heightened beyond nature ; and the incidents they related, it is certain, were commonly blended with the most ridiculous extravagance.


present, however, I believe they may be read with perfect safety, is indeed there be any who choose to look into them.

The times in which we live are in no danger of adopting a system of romantic virtue. The parents of the present generation, what with selling their sons and daughters in marriage, and what with teaching them by every possible means the glorious principles of avarice, have contrived pretty effectually to bring down from its former fights that idle, youthful, unprofitable passion, which has for its object personal attractions, in preference to all the wealth in the world. With the successful endeavours of those profoundly politic parents, the levity of dissipation, the vanity of parade, and the fury of gaming, now so prevalent, have concurred to cure completely in the fashionable of both sexes any tendency to mutual fondness.

What has a modish young fellow to do with those antiquated notions of gallantry, that were connected with veneration for female excellence, invincible honour, and unspotted fame? Is it not enough for him, if he intend to strike the matrimonial bargain, that by himself, or an old cunning father, he can derive a good one, to get possession of some woman, whose fortune joined to his own, if any he have, shall enable him to glitter in public, and in private to gratify other favourite inclinations, more freely? Provided these grand points are gained in the person he thus traffics for to be the partner of his life, what signifies her appearance, her understanding, or her character? And those Fine Ladies who seek conquest only for show, too well instructed in the superior consequences of that to put any value on so simple a thing as a Heart, merely for its own sake ; what else have they to mind but securing, by whatever arts, such settlements as shall place them, when married, on a level with their companions, or if possible above them, in the allimportant articles of gaiety and splendour? As men's hazarding any thing in the defence of girls who may take it into their heads to think of reputation, delicacy, sentiment, and other such exploded ideas ; what can be so foolish —although to hazard their lives in a drunken quarrel for a prostitute might perhaps be brave?

That in so polite an age the elevations of love, the sanctity of truth, and the majesty of virtue, should pass for knight-errantry, cannot be surprising ; nor is it any wonder, that the very best things, in the productions last-mentioned, should be no way interesting to a modern reader, whose taste and manners are formed on standards far different. Some however may not be displeased to hear the opinion of no less a judge than Milton concerning them. It seems they are one of his early studies, and that on a moral account. As his words to this purpose are remarkable, and not much known, I shall take the liberty to quote part of them.

“ I betook me amongst those lofty ci fables and romances, which recount in solemn

cantos the deeds of knighthood founded by our « victorious kings, and from hence had in renown

over all Christendom. There I read it in the “ oath of every knight, that he should defend to the “ expense of his blood, or of his life, if it so be« fell him, the honour and chastity of virgin or

matron. From whence even then I learnt, what

a noble virtue chastity sure must be, to the de“ fence of which so many worthies by such a dear

adventure of themselves had sworn. And if I “ found in the story afterwards any of them by 66 word or deed breaking that oath, I judged it the

fault of the poet as that which is attributed



« ПретходнаНастави »