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ings the Christians against the Saracens made the common groundwork of them; and from the 11th to the 16th century, they continued to bewitch all Europe. In Spain, where the taste for this sort of writing had been most greedily caught, the ingenious Cervantes, in the beginning of the last century, contributed greatly to explode it; and the abolition of tournaments, the prohibition of single combat, the disbelief of magic and enchantments, and the change in general of manners throughout Europe, began to give a new turn to fictitious composition.
Then appeared the Astræa of D'Urfé, the Grand Cyrus, the Clelia and Cleopatra of Mad. Scuderi, the Arcadia of Sir Philip Sidney, and other grave and stately compositions in the same style. These may be considered as forming the second stage of romance writing. The heroism and the gallantry, the moral and virtuous turn of the chivalry romance, were still preserved; but the dragons, the necromancers, and the enchanted castles, were banished, and some small resemblance to human nature was introduced. Still, however, there was too much of the marvellous in them to please an age which now aspired to refinement. The characters were discerned to be strained; the style to be swoln; the adventures incredible; the books themselves were voluminous and tedious.
Hence, this sort of composition soon assumed a
third form, and from magnificent heroic romance dwindled down to the familiar novel. These novels, both in France and England, during the age of Louis XIV. and King Charles II. were in general of a trifling nature, without the appearance of moral tendency, or useful instruction. Since that time, however, somewhat better has been attempted, and a degree of reformation introduced into the spirit of novel writing. Imitations of life and character have been made their principal object. Relations have been professed to be given of the behaviour of persons in particular interesting situations, such as may actually occur in life; by means of which, what is laudable or defective in character and conduct may be pointed out, and placed in an useful light. Upon this plan, the French have produced some compositions of considerable merit. Gil Blas, by Le Sage, is a book full of good sense, and instructive knowledge of the world. The works of Marivaux, especially his Marianne, discover great refinement of thought, great penetration into human nature, and paint with a very delicate pencil some of the nicest shades and features in the distinction of characters. The Nouvelle Heloise of Rousseau is a production of a very singular kind; in many of the events which are related, improbable and unnatural; in some of the details tedious, and for some of the scenes which are described justly blamable; but withal, for the power of eloquence, for tenderness of sentiment,
for ardour of passion, entitled to rank among the highest productions of fictitious history.
In this kind of writing we are, it must be confessed, in Great Britain, inferior to the French. We neither relate so agreeably, nor draw characters with so much delicacy; yet we are not without some performances which discover the strength of the British genius. No fiction, in any language, was ever better supported than the Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. While it is carried on with that appearance of truth and simplicity which takes a strong hold of the imagination of all readers, it suggests at the same time very useful instruction by showing how much the native powers of man may be exerted for surmounting the difficulties of any external situation. Mr Fielding's Novels are highly distinguished for their humour; a humour which, if not of the most refined and delicate kind, is original, and peculiar to himself. The characters which he draws are lively and natural, and marked with the strokes of a bold pencil. The general scope of his stories is favourable to humanity and goodness of heart; and in Tom Jones, his greatest work, the artful conduct of the fable, and the subserviency of all the incidents to the winding up of the whole, deserve much praise. The most moral of all our novel writers is Richardson, the author of Clarissa, a writer of excellent intentions, and of very considerable capacity and genius; did he not
possess the unfortunate talent of spinning out pieces of amusement into an immeasurable length. The trivial performances which daily appear in public under the title of lives, adventures, and histories, by anonymous authors, if they be often innocent, yet are most commonly insipid; and though in the general it ought to be admitted, that characteristical novels, formed upon nature and upon life, without extravagance and without licentiousness, might furnish an agreeable and useful entertainment to the mind; yet considering the manner in which these writings have been, for the most part, conducted, it must also be confessed, that they oftener tend to dissipation and idleness than to any good purpose. Let us now, therefore, make our retreat from these regions of fiction.
NATURE OF POETRY-ITS ORIGIN AND PROGRESS-VERSIFICATION.
I HAVE now finished my observations on the different kinds of writing in prose. What remains is, to treat of poetical composition. Before entering on the consideration of any of its particular kinds, I design this Lecture as an introduction to the subject of poetry in general; wherein I shall treat of its nature, give an account of its origin, and make some observations on versification, or poetical numbers.
Our first inquiry must be, what is poetry? and wherein does it differ from prose? The answer to this question is not so easy as might at first be imagined; and critics have differed and disputed much concerning the proper definition of poetry. Some have made its essence to consist in fiction, and support their opinion by the authority of Aristotle and Plato. But this is certainly too limited a definition; for though fiction may have a great