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Bloomfield, in the early confinement to a poor village in the most flat and unpicturesque part of Suffolk," could produce descriptions full of a combination of images so brilliant, and so touching, as he, who has been all his life familiar with the richest scenes of Nature, can never, with inferior gifts, produce by any effort!
The mind is surely the scene of action, which we are most interested in studying. When we compare its capacities with those of material power; when we know that in one minute it can perform journies and gain victories, which it would consume the whole lives of the most active travellers, and the most able generals to execute, what more copious, what more important theme for delineation can we require? It is this consideration which elevates the study of ethics among the first in the scale of human knowledge; and as long as intellect is superior to matter, it must be classed in the highest rank of philosophy. Its nice and evanescent colours, which, seeming to leave much to conjecture, give to dull faculties an opportunity to call it shadowy and unsubstantial, are the very characteristics, which stamp its value.
Never then let it be said, that the life of a per
r See a most interesting volume of Scenery, illustrative of Bloomfield's poems, published by Mr. Brayley.
son of genius affords no materials for biography, because it was passed in retirement and inaction. If there remain records of his mental occupations, if his opinions, his feelings, and the rainbow-like colours of his fancy can be remembered, and properly told, they will contribute essentially to the best and most interesting department of human intelligence.
March 21, 1807.
In this age of critical inquiry, of patient, ac. curate, and laborious investigation, it might be supposed that no author would be so har as to attempt to deceive the world; it might be thought that no literary imposture could be so well carried on, as to escape discovery from the lynx-like eyes of the wise and learned, or the acute discernment of the readers of the works of other times. Yet in point of fact, this does not appear to be the. case; deceits of this kind are often attempted, and not always, at least satisfactorily, discovered. Though that ingenious young gentleman, Master Ireland, made a full confession (but not till it was too late) and even had the hardiness to " glory in his shame,” the fountains of other works of much greater merit are still as much concealed as those of the Nile; and other authors, translators, or editors of much higher genius and pretensions have quietly stolen
out of the world (or like poor misguided Chatterton indignantly ' rushed out of it), leaving posterity to settle the matter among themselves, and assign them their proper place at their leisure.
This however has not always been done in a manner perfectly convincing. Attempts have lately been made to shew that even the forgeries of Lauder were not wholly without foundation. There are still persons who are not entirely convinced that the youth of Chatterton was able to produce those noble poems, which he chose to ascribe to the maturer age of Rowley; and there are many more, who find it difficult to believe that Macpherson was the sole author of the poems published under the name of Ossian, s
Concerning these last, the investigation seems not to have heen very fairly and impartially conducted. On the one hand, there was great national and perhaps personal, pride, which would not deign to give such information as the public had a right to expect; on the other, a captious unwillingness to give way to pretensions to such remote antiquity,
* Vitaque cum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras.
Virg. L. XII. 952. I have not read the report of the Committee of the Highland Society upon this subject, nor have learnt what has been the result of their inquiries.
which must of course be very little capable of being supported by external proof.
It seems to be allowed by all, that the Erse, as it is comnfonly called, has not been a written language till within, comparatively, a very few years ; and it is contended, that the changes which take place in language, and the well-known inaccuracy of oral tradition, must have prevented such long and regular poems as Temora and Fingal, from being thus handed down during so many centuries. But to this it may be replied that, in a country so remote as the Highlands of Scotland, and so little visited by strangers as they were during the dark ages, their language, like their local superstitions, probably remained nearly the same. And with respect to tradition, in countries where there are no written records, it is more likely to be preserved in tolerable purity and correctness than where there
It may also be urged, that till the time when they were collected by Pisistratus, even the works of Homer were recited only in detached parts; and the acts of Diomede, the parting of Hector and Andromache, the death of Patroclus, &c. &c. were known by the people in general, only as so many detached ballads, or rhapsodies, and not as parts of the noblest whole ever produced by human genius. The art of book-making does not then seem to have