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Voyages and Travels.-Anson.-Hawkesworth. —Addison.—Burnet.-Lady M. W. Montague.-Johnson.-Fictitious Narrative.-The Xenophons.-Cervantes.-Le Sage.Fielding.-Smollett.-Sterne.-D'Arblois.
-Radcliffe.-Swift.-De Foe.-Mrs. Hamilton.- Epistolary Writing.- Cicero. Seneca. - Balzac.
MY DEAR JOHN,
VOYAGES and travels are another species of narrative which I must not pass over, since it differs in one essential from those which have been already mentioned. It requires considerable powers of description to render it pleasing, and great accuracy of observation to make it useful. The style of these works should be suited to the subject, but in general care should be taken to avoid too much ornament, and espe
cially the affectation of it. Description is the rock on which most narrators of travels suffer shipwreck, especially when they attempt to be picturesque. They should remember that no language can convey a correct idea of a landscape; and the most laboured effort of this kind will be so different from the reality, that no spectator. could possibly recognize it by what he had read. Descriptions of this kind ought therefore to be short and striking; the writer selecting only a few of the prominent features belonging to a place or situation, which will at once be less tiresome, and less likely to mislead than a long detail. In the delineation of manners and customs, language is most powerful; for there are certain well defined, and well known. phrases, which can express any thing of this nature, but words cannot describe mere objects of sight; even a portrait can scarcely be drawn in words, so as to express a real likeness. A traveller will be tedious if he describes every thing he sees; selection is as much his duty as that of the historian. All the errors to which I have alluded will be found in most of those ephemeral productions which almost daily choak the press,
and annoy the public, under the title of "Tours to the lakes," "Rambles to watering places," "Scenery in Wales," &c. &c. What can be more uninteresting than travels in this country, along turnpike roads, between quickset hedges, among square or triangular paddocks or fields, and where there can be nothing new or extraordinary in natural produce, architecture, or manners and customs, to awaken curiosity, or to increase our stock of knowledge? Such trash is only calculated to sail silently down the stream of oblivion, with their fit companions, the usual furniture of our circulating libraries.
A traveller, who means to interest or instruct the public, should be properly accomplished for the task, and should at least possess a good general knowledge of most of the popular arts and sciences, particularly natural history, philosophy, chemistry, and painting: he should also possess an enlarged and liberal mind.
There are many excellent narratives of voyages and travels extant, both in French and English, but my limits will allow me only to notice a few of the latter. The popularity of Anson's voyage has established its character, and that popularity (whoever was the writer,
O whether Robins the engineer, or the chaplain, (whose name it bears) is not undeserved. It is clear and simple, and the story well told, withont episode or superfluous description. Dr. Hawkesworth's voyages are more laboured, and more highly ornamented, but seem to want somewhat of that spirit which a writer who describes scenes in which he had been personally conversant would have infused into them. The simple tale of the illustrious Cook I relish better.
Among our principal travellers, his reputation obliges me to notice Mr. Addison, but it is extraordinary that he, who excelled in almost every other department of literature, should have failed in this. The rapid, yet dull narrative, is hardly enlivened by his beautiful classical quotations. I have seen it somewhere insinuated, that these were transcribed from an Italian author; but this I cannot believe; for few men were more conversant in the classics, or had more taste to relish their beauties, than Mr. Addison.
Bishop Burnet, though possessed of little original genius, is more entertaining as a traveller than even the great writer whom I have
last mentioned. One advantage he had, in adopting the epistolary style, which always imparts an air of ease and sprightliness, and breaks the heavy uniformity of a continued narrative.
The letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montague, during her husband's embassy to the Porte, were evidently not written for publication, yet they have been long esteemed the happiest specimen extant of lively and entertaining narrative. Indeed it has by some been asserted that the composition was so excellent and correct that they could not have been written by a lady; this absurd calumny has, however, been amply refuted by the great talents displayed, particularly in prose composition, by the truly eminent female writers of the present day; and whoever has read the productions of a More, a Barbauld, a Williams, and a Hamilton, wilk not think it impossible that Lady Mary's letters should have been the production of a woman. The suspicion probably arose from a surreptitious edition of them having been printed some years ago by a notorious character of the name of Cleland, whose name was sufficient to bring suspicion on whatever he produced. The