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speak in the mildest terms, is very ill placed; the metaphysical essay on the Deity, in N° 17, is superficial and inconsequent; and the eulogium on Richardson, in Nos. 25 and 26, is so highly extravagant, that among the catalogue of his excellencies, he is praised for the beauty of his style.
35. The REFLECTOR. The author of this collection seems to have thought that the Tatler and Spectator were too polished and refined for plain readers, and that a more subdued style and manner were necessary for the purpose which he chiefly held in view, that of rural instruction. “ Steele and Addison," he observes, “ to their immortal honour, were the first who brought philosophy from schools and colleges, to visit the dressing-room and parlour: and our author, with a well-meant gallantry, has woed her to take a trip with him towards the farm-house and the cottage.”* There appears, however, to be a great mistake in this supposition; for to those minds which are not sufficiently cultivated to improve by the study of the Spectator, the pages of the Reflector will be, most assuredly, addressed in vain. Though the morality and the ethics of this essayist be generally correct, there is a monotony in his manner, and a mediocrity in his execution, which give an air of common-place to the whole. The business of the female world, love, marriage, &c. &c. occupy a great portion of his attention; and some valuable advice, though given in no very original garb, may be culled by his fair readers. No 2, of the second volume, on Cruelty, I would select as a favourable specimen of the work, which includes fifty essays, printed in two volumes, duodecimo, in the year 1788. Want of strength, and deficiency of literary resource, are, notwithstanding the avowed design of the collection, the great failings of the Reflector.
* Preface, p. 5 and 6.
36. Winter EVENINGS. A production of Dr. Knox, which, if not so popular as his “ Essays," yet possesses very considerable merit. It was originally published anonymously in 1788, in three volumés duodecimo, divided into nine books, and these subdivided into chapters. A second edition was reprinted in two volumes octavo; and a third, in 1795, in two, duodecimo; of these copies, the first and third are before me; the latter being stripped of its division into books and chapters, and thrown into the form of Evenings or Essays.
In his introductory essay, Dr. Knox, commenting on the title which he had chosen for his work, observes, “ Books enable the imagination to create a summer in the midst of frost and snow; and, with the assistance of culinary fire, whose comfortable warmth supplies, round the parlour hearth, the absence of the sun, I believe the Winter is considered by few, as less pleasurable, upon the whole, than the season of soft breezes and solar effulgence.
“ The student shuts the door, while the chill wind whistles round his room, and the rain beats upon the tiles and pavements, stirs his fire, snuffs his candle, throws himself into his elbow chair, and defies the elements. If he chuses to transport himself to warm climates, to regions delightful as the vale of Tempé, or even to riot in all the enchanting scenes of Elysium, he has only to take a volume from his book-case, and with every comfort of ease and safety at home, he can richly feast his capacious imagination.
“ For myself, I must acknowledge, that, though I have no objection to cards in moderation, I have, at the same time, no taste for them. They appear to me too dull and unideal to afford a thinking man, who values his leisure, an adequate return of amusement for the time they engross. In a rural retirement, what could I do in the winter evenings, when no society interrupted, but read or write? I have done both in a vicissitude pleasant to myself, and as my inclination or my ideas of propriety suggested. In these employments I have found my time pass away, not only innocently, but pleasantly; and most of these lucubrations are literally what their title insinuates, the produce of the Winter Evenings.”
It has been objected to the first edition of the Winter Evenings, that it was too scholastic and dogmatic in its tone; faults which still, in some degree, adhere to the later impressions, though considerably enlarged and corrected. The style, likewise, is neither so polished nor so pleasing as that of the “ Essays;" yet these lucubrations exhibit great variety of subject, with much instruction and much entertainment, and the literary papers are both numerous and interesting.
37. THE LOITERER. The representation of academical life, to which this paper is principally devoted, would appear too narrow a sphere for the labours of the periodical essayist; and, indeed, had not the authors of the Loiterer occasionally deviated from their avowed plan, the sources of amusement would soon have been exhausted. Their claim to originality, however, is
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in their own opinion, founded on the basis of this restrictive design, of which, in their last number, they have given the subsequent account. indeed a little remarkable,” they observe, though several works of this kind have been written and published at Oxford, none since the time of Terræ Filius have drawn their sources principally from academical life.
“ The Author of the Connoisseur, in a few scattered Papers, has rather pointed the way, than traced the path. Under this idea the present work was begun; and the original Undertakers of it discovered, or fancied that they discovered, a field open before them, as yet unbeaten by the footsteps of any of their predecessors; and it was imagined that the circles of Oxford would furnish some portraits and some scenes, the peculiar features of which, if happily caught, and accurately discriminated, might be not uninteresting to the public eye. In pursuance of this plan, our first volume is almost entirely confined to such subjects as must naturally present themselves to an inhabitant of this place. In the second, it was thought necessary, for various reasons, to enlarge the circle of our subjects, still however without losing sight of the original plan; and the whole is offered to the World, as a rough, but not entirely inaccurate