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larship and their talents; yet, in just vindication of our own times, I will venture to oppose to them a Carter or a Montague.
In Elizabeth's reign, the superior orders can hardly be said to have been illiterate, if a mere acquaintance with words will constitute the scholar; but they were miserably deficient in many points of useful knowledge. In those times, when the great body of the people are so greatly ignorant, but when science is beginning to shed her lustre on a few, the clergy are generally observed to catch the first illumination.
The clergy, however, in Eliza's golden days, were irradiated by a species of light, which generated obscurity. Distracted by the jargon of scholastic ambiguities, the priests of Elizabeth were skilled in such argumentation, as never produced conviction in them. selves or others. Their sophistry was worse than ignorance. “ For the soul to be without knowledge is not good,” saith Solomon; but I would rather acquiesce in dreary emptiness, than fill my mind with logical barbarities. "Despising their mother tongue, they were accustomed to address the people in Latin ; though, however fashionable Latin sermons might have been, they must have seen the absurdity of preaching in a language which few of their audience understood. An English sermon indeed, stuffed with all the terins in theology, must have been almost as uniutelligible.
For the information of the common people, the Bible was translated into English; but, as the common people were unable to read English, they could not, even now, approach the scriptures. There fol. lowed, therefore, a pretty general institution of read. ing seminaries.'
The authors, who distinguished themselves in this reign, were men of great abilities; but they were rari nantes in gurgite vasto. At such a season, true genius and learning always shine transcendently, contrasted, as they must be, with the general darkness. I was going to add, that men of ingenuity are encouraged to exert their utmost powers, by the applauses of an age which cannot restrain its admiration ; but the praises of the ignorant peither soothe nor stimulate. The history of Sir Walter Raleigh must place
him high in our esteem, when we consider the barba rous language with which he struggled. The ecclesiastical policy of Hooker, who was superior to the pedantry of the times, is worthy the present age, for its liberal and manly sentiment; and few have dared contend with a Verulam or a Shakspeare.
But letters were not generally cultivated. Shakspeare himself was illiterate.
In the reign of our other queen, the learned languages were taught with a view to real knowledge; though the acquisition of Greek or Latin, in former reigns, was little else than the acquisition of words.
And our own language was much enriched and polished. The productions, however, of writers in general, had no claim to elegance. Few were in possession of a correct taste. Clark was a deep theologian, but he was phlegmatic and dull; Shaftesbury dazzles with a false brilliancy of style; Berkeley puzzles by his subtleties. In the mean time Locke and Newton may be gazed at with wonder, though the reputation of the former seems to be gradually declining: In poetry, we see a cluster of pleasing writers; and Pope and Addison are mentioned as the most conspicuous. ] Pope is not original, and Addison is no longer regarded as a poet, though he will ever be esteemed as a moralist. In his prose essays, indeed, a late ingenious critic hath discovered a want of precision. Grammatical accuracy, and exactness of expression, were reserved for a Lowth and a Harris.
But, to proceed in this manner would be endless. I proposed only a sketch of our best ages, in order to awaken the memories of those who might be willing to decide on the question, whether this present race hath any marks of degeneracy from the learning or the virtue of their forefathers?
If I am not mistaken, it already appears that the English nation hath made a gradual progress in literature, from the time of Elizabeth to that of Anne. Indeed, even our morose declaimers have allowed, that Queen Anne's was properly the Augustan age of this country. The streams of knowledge were deep and clear, and yet diffused.
At this moment literature is still more extensively
aspicuous. But spread abroad; but, “'tis grown shallow, it seems, in proportion to its diffusion." "There is a want of candour and of reflection in this trite remark. The analogy of the stream will no longer hold good. Is it not ridiculous to say, that, because we may have five hundred literary men amongst us, each individual is less learned, than if we had only half the number; or, that none, in such a number, are deep, because many are superficial ? The contrary position would be much more rational. I should rather suppose, that the prize of learning would be contended for with stronger emulation, on account of the numerous competitors. At such a crisis as this, when there are so many men of ability, it must require very great talents to be distinguished above the rest. For å clearer illustration of this, let us look only to the present state of poetry.
More than a third part of those who have a classical education, can now write tolerable verse. Those of our Wickhamists are superior, in versification, to the best poets under Queen Anne, if we except Pope and Parnell.
Among the choir of poets, therefore, who charm us with their mingled melodies, that bard must possess peculiar sweetness, to attract our chief attention to himself. Among the multitude, who rise far above mediocrity, it must require exalted talents to be greatly distinguished.
The same observation may be applied to other species of literature. He, whose acquirements are now no more than common, would formerly have been regarded as a deep scholar, and would not have been overlooked in a crowd of literati. Perhaps we have, at this juncture, as many writers as there were readers in the age of Elizabeth; and, while the greater part of the community have minds improved and cultivated into elegance, our poetry is musical and rich, our history is luminous and elaborate, our philosophy is enlarged and liberal, and our theology is simple and pure; and it may, I think, be justly observed, “ So distinguished an age hath never before existed, when he, who was educated under the Wartoos at Winchester and at Oxford, might converse on poetry with a Hayley or a Mason; on divinity, with a Hurd or a Porteus; on morals, with a Johnson ; on history, with a Gibbon or a Robertson; on antiquities, with a Ġough or a Whitaker; on anatomy, with a Sheldon: apd, after having viewed the galleries of Reynolds,* might repair to the theatre of a Siddons.”
For the Pocket Magazine.
CROSS READINGS. THE dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, we are extremely sorry to hear-was drowned last week, whilst bathing in the Serpentine in Hyde Park.
A very long debate sately took place at the Society of Arts and Sciences, on the propriety of petitioning parliament for-a new moon.
The Monument was, a few days since,-safely delivered of three fine boys, who, with the mother, we are happy to say, are doing as well as can be expected.
A fine horse, the property of a nobleman going abroad, will, some time in the month of October, stand in the pillory for defrauding his creditors. .
It has been some time in contemplation to remove Fleet-market-to the Pavillion at Brighton, for the benefit of the air.
We are happy to inform the public, that the Royal Family will, some time in the month of October, according to ancient custom-be whipped in Smithfield at the cart's tail, pursuant to their sentence.
* This essay was written as far back as the year 1791. The arguments of the author have acquired a great addi. tion of strength in the quarter of a century, which has elapsed since they were first urged. In almost all the departments of art, science, and knowledge, which he mentions, a crowd of names might be produced, to which it would be difficult to find rivals, in any former period or our literary history.---ED.
By the late Mr. A. Walker. THE cathedral is the grand lion of Strasburgh. This unfinished edifice is more like a cabinet cut in ivory, than a fabric of stone! Mosaic, I think they call that filligree work which stands off and decorates the supporting part of a gothic building, whatever name it goes by. The open work of this cathedral has a lightness and elegance in it, that exceeds York, Lincoln, Cologne, or any church I ever yet saw. · The tower and spire are the wonders of this church; the tower part is not an equal-sided parallelopiped, as towers generally are, but is wider from north to south, than it is from east to west; showing that its original design was, that two spires should have stood upon it, had it ever been finished : hence, beautiful as it is, it is like what we should call a pig with one ear. But, alas! to express the beauty of this tower and spire in drawing, would take a year, and the piece ought to be at least two yards square.
I confess, I was ready to fall down and worship this building, when I turned the corner of a street and saw it in full perspective; tbe contour is astonishing! and every foot square would supply matter for hours of study, wonder, and contemplation! Long before we reached this ancient city, we saw through and through this famous spire, as if it had been a bundle of reeds : but when we ascended the tower, and found the staircase not eight inches thick of stone, and many of the pillars not thicker than my leg, which seemed to have tons of weight upon them, by heavens! we could scarcely abstract our ideas from ancient witchcraft and miracle! My head was giddy long before we reached the top of the tower (and perhaps some tame reader may think it continued so while I wrote this) but at the top (I suppose it was something like what the aeronauts say of their elevation) it was so far above what one is generally used to, and comparison so far out of the question,