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that, even though they may be similar to such as have been produced by others, will make them interesting and valuable. There is all the difference, which there is between an original, and a copy in painting. There may be the same outlines, the same figures and colours; but the difference can be better felt than expressed; one is faint, and cold and dead; the other breathes and moves.

It is idle to be quibbling about the definition of literary genius, and limiting it to one or two forms of excellence; every thing is genius, which is inspired by this living spirit. Nor is it confined alone to poetry, though in poetry its higher powers may be exhibited: still less is it narrowed to one or two tracts of poetry : though Dr. Darwin seemed strangely to think almost all the merit of that art was restrained to the representation of material objects. Elevated thoughts, and tender sentiments, when conveyed in congenial language, partake surely as much of the essence of this divine power, as the most brilliant imagery !

I desire no more infallible test of genius, than that ardent manner, which, displaying the soul of the writer predominant over his language, com- ; municates its own fire to the reader, and carries him along with it. He, who is characterised by this trait, gives an interest to every subject that he touches, and throws sparks of light on the dullest subject.

I have been in the habit of contemplating beings so gifted, with a peculiar degree of veneration, beyond perhaps what the sternness of a cold philosophy will allow. Their powers seem to be out of all


proportion to their learning, acquirements, and opportunities; or rather appear to have no kind of concurrence with them. They are actuated by something beyond themselves; and are in some respects like the Æolian harps, on which the airs of heaven play involuntary music. I continually think of the happy, though somewhat severe words, in which some one (Lord Orford, I think,) spoke of Goldsmith. He called him “ an inspired ideot!"

Men of this cast have an acuteness of sensibility which is dangerous to their peace, and too frequently troublesome to others. A due regulation of it can alone conduct them to old age; and to the performance of those greater undertakings by which

high and permanent fame is secured. Burns, and many more, have fallen sacrifices in early life. Some on the contrary have touched it with too violent a hand, and have extinguished their genius with it.

These richly endowed mortals too frequently pay dear enough for their superiority. Ordinary minds make no allowance for their eccentricities; but pursue them with unrelenting ridicule and hatred. Unsusceptible of the charms of their eloquence, they perceive only the impetuosity of their passions, and the inequality of their judgments. They see them inferior and neglectful in the trifles, in which alone they are themselves conversant; and think of them by the puny standard of their own pleasures and pursuits : while if a glimpse of the pre-eminence to which they are entitled breaks in upon their dark intellects, envy rises at the same instant, and makes them worse foes than mere dulness.

I am not sure that I would wish my child to be a genius. Its advantages and its evils are so intermixed, that it is a fearful gift, for which I should not have the boldness to pray. But I cannot with hold my worship from it, wherever it inhabits.

If I am asked, why, with so keen a sense of disa crimination of the heavenly flame, I have in the CENSURA LITERARIA endeavoured to revive so many old volumes, which never possessed a spark of it, I answer, that it is for other subordinate claims to notice, which the course of time has given them beyond their original value, that I bring them for. ward; and that I call attention to them, as illustra. tions of the progress of language and manners.

It would be easy to specify numerous works of obsolete rhymers, possessed of a considerable portion of minor ingenuity, which secured them a transient fame, and renders them still curious to the philologer and the antiquary, yet so deficient in a true poetical spirit, that not a single passage of that high class can be found in them. Some one of the leading powers sets the fashion of the day; and a hundred imitators start up with productions similar to the original in shape and make, and every thing but the soul that animates it! Dull readers at first are deceived by the outward likeness; but time, the surest touchstone, proves which is buoyant, and which is doomed only to sink.

A book of genius is a mirror which reflects back the rich scenery of an higher intellect, adorned with all the imagery of a visionary world. It affords one of the most acute, and surely one of the purest pleasures, of which our nature, when refined and

improved by education, is capable. But alas! it is almost as rare as it is delightful.

Nov. 23, 1808.


N°. LIV. The difficulty of a genuine transcript of

the operations of the mind greater than those, who have not made the attempt, suppose.

“ It is always pleasing to observe, how much more our minds can conceive, than our bodies can perform."


The following communication is very opportune, as it has a very close connection with the subject of the foregoing paper.

Nov. 24, 1808. MR. RUMINATOR, There is a certain degree of self-approbation, which is really necessary for one's peace of mind. You perhaps may be able to afford it me, by putting me in a little better humour with my own talents. It has been my ambition to be an author, I mean of original compositions; but, though nothing seems easier before I sit down to write, I no sooner take my pen in my hand, than my powers fail me. . I seem beforehand to have a store of ideas; and I flatter myself that an easy flow of language is at my command.

I cannot tell whether it is the mechanical operation of writing, that puts to flight the train of my thoughts; or whether I deceive myself as to the



existence of an intellectual fund, which will not bear the test of an attempt to realize it.

He, who possesses the talent of committing to paper a series of reflections or sentiments, in a manner which will interest an impartial reader, and abide the censure of candid criticism, can perform no more, than, if we were to judge from the pretensions thrown out in common conversation, almost every educated person of ordinary abilities can easily execute. I confess my own opinion is very much the reverse : and, in truth, I should be necessitated to deem myself miserably below the usual standard of mental faculties, if I thought otherwise.

I am inclined to believe, that in the oral communication of our own ideas so much depends on voice and manner, while, from their transitoriness, so much less time is given for a strict examination, that there is little opportunity for appreciating them severely and justly. These praterš therefore do not know what it is to bring the operations of their minds to the nicer scrutiny, which written thoughts afford.

*For my own part, I own, with a due sense of mortification, that my shadowy conceptions are perpetually eluding my grasp at the instant of em. brace. I know not, whether I am more venturous then some others, and follow delusive lights. The generality of authors, I observe, cannot hazard á step out of the beaten track. They follow their leaders with a timid servility; and repeat their songs almost like mocking.birds.

There is something convenient in the use of a thought, that has been already tried, and moulded

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