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HE period, in which LONGINUS florifhed, with his particular character as a man, and his talents and erudition as a writer, have been fo copiously handled by the ingenious Mr. SMITH, whofe Tranflation has done juftice to "the Sublime," that it would be vain to enlarge upon those topics. I will therefore content myself with offering a few curfory reflections on the genius of my Author, and the spirit of his Performance; for fashion demands a preface, by way of Master of the Ceremonies to usher a production to public view.
The garden of Criticism has almost conftantly been over-run with the weeds of Ill-management. The earlier laborers, who have ranged its walks with a methodical exactness, have facrificed beauty to decorum, A 4 while
while the finical conceits of modern refinement have turned them into an open lawn, preferving only in favorite corners fome inelegant ornaments: on the whole, they fhew a forwardness to differ from, but not a tafte to improve upon, ancient errors...
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The former, to speak literally, have, with ARISTOTLE, cramped the imagination within the trammels of rule; and the latter have by indulging a critical affectation, created elegance, but deftroyed majefty; in confe quence of which, pieces of eafe and levity have affumed the place of fublimer writings.
Without detracting from the excellence
of thofe ancients, whofe works have escaped oblivion, LONGINUS must be confeffed to claim fuperior veneration; if * candor of difpofition, and rectitude of judgement; if
LONGINUS died in the year of Chrift 273, and, in confequence, 292 years after VIRGIL, who died 19 years before the birth of our Savior.
a knowledge of the art he treats, and impartial reflection upon the paffages he difcuffles, are qualities effential to a critic. But his own performance is the best criterion of his merits.
It may appear ftrange, that this mafterly writer fhould have flumbered in mouldy libraries for fo confiderable an interval: but
It may therefore be worthy of a remark, that in a compofition devoted to criticism the mention of writers, who were an ornament to the Auguftan age, is totally neglected. Several examples produced by our critic to elucidate figures occafionally difcuffed, are borrowed from HOMER. Collateral ones rarely fail in VIRGIL.
This peculiarity cannot be accounted for, otherwife than from the reflection, that learning and 10 genius, however exalted in public estimation, are whimfically narrowed by the fame principles, which actuate inferior difpofitions. LonGINUS was a favorite with ZENOBIA, who dignified herself with the title of Queen of the Eaft, and dictated, at the inftigation of that celebrated Amazon, the spirited challenge to
but the history of letters affords many inftances of fuch checks to their progrefs; and the channel of Learning has never been more fatally stoped, than when Ignorance and Tyranny have condemned its authors to obscurity; an obfcurity, from which many an ancient valuable has been drawn by the fuccefs of accident; as, on the other hand, many a modern mafter-piece has been originally
AURELIAN, Emperor of Rome, which ended in her captivity, and his deftruction. Surely LONGINUS muft have been as converfant with the excellencies of VIRGIL's Poetry, as he confeffes himself to have been with the decla*mations of CICERO! His plan may be concluded more immediately to have admitted a compliment to the former. He could not, as a critic of tafte and erudition, have conftrued the Mantuan in the infignificant light of a plagiary of the Greek. It is indeed obfervable, that LONGINUS offers the largest portion of incenfe to the merits of Grecian writers ; and thereby too frequently injures his favorites, no lefs than himself; for beauties are imagined in 'paffages, where defects are rather to be noticed.