Page images
PDF
EPUB

whatever might have been her pretensions to absolute virginity. Notwithstanding her exaggerated habits of dignity and ceremony, and a certain affectation of imperial severity, she did not perceive this ambition of being complimented for beauty, to be an idle and unpardonable levity, totally inconsistent with her high station and character. As the conquered all nations with her arms, ic matters not what were the triumphs of her eyes. Of what consequence was the complexion of the mistress of the world ? Not less vain of her person than her politics, this stately coquet, the guardian of the protestant faith, the terror of the sea, the mediatrix of the factions of France, and the scourge of Spain, was infinitely mortified, if an embassador, at the first audience, did not tell her she was the finest woman in Europe. No negociation succeeded unless she was addressed as a goddess. Encomiastic harangues drawn from this topic, even on the supposition of youth and beauty, were surely fuperfluous, unsuitable, and unworthy; and were offered and received with an equal impro. priety. Yet when she rode through the streets of the city of Norwich, Cupid, at the command of the mayor and aldermen, advancing from a groupe of gods who had left Olympus to grace the procellion, gave her a golden arrow, the most effective weapon of his well-furnished quiver, which under the influence of such irresistible charins was sure to wound the most obdurate heart. “ A gift, fays honest Hollinshed, which her majesty, now. verging to her fiftieth year, received very thankfullie.” In one of the fulsome interludes at court, where she was present, the finge ing-boys of her chapel presented the story of the three rival god. desses on mount Ida, to which her majesty was ingeniously added as a fourth : and Paris was arraigned in form for adjudging the golden apple to Venus, which was due to the queen alone.

• This inundation of classical pedantry foon infected our poetry. Our writers, already trained in the school of fancy, were suddenly dazzled with these novel imaginations, and the divinities and heroes of pagan antiquity decorated every compofition. The perpetual allusions to ancient fable were often introduced without the leaft regard to propriety. Shakspeare's Mrs. Page, who is not intended in any degree to be a learned or an affected lady, laughing at the cumbersome courtship of her corpulent lover Falitaffe, says, “I had rather be a giantess and lie under mount Pelion.” This familiarity with the pagan story was not, however, so much owing to the prevailing Itudy of the original au, thors, as to the numerous English versions of them, which were consequently made. The translations of the classics, which now employed every pen, gave a currency and a celebrity to these fancies, and had the effect of diffusing them among the peo. ple, No sooner were they delivered from the pale of the Icholastic languages, than they acquired a general notoriety: Ovid's Metamorphoses just translated by Golding, to instance no farther, disclosed a new world of fiction, even to the illiterate, As we had now all the ancient fables in English, learned allusions, whether in a poem or a pageant, were no longer obscure and una Vol. LII. Aug. 1781,

1

intelligible

6

intelligible to common readers and common spectators. Ariel here we are led to observe, that at this restoration of the claslics, we were first struck only with their fabulous inventions. We did not attend to their regularity of design and justness of sentimenta A rude age, beginning to read these writers, imitated their extratagancies, not their natural beauties. And these, like other noveltics, were pursued to a blameable excess.'

- Another capital fource of the poetry peculiar to this pe. riod, confitted in the numerous translations of Italian tales into English. Thefe narratives, not dealing altogether in romantic inventions, but in real life and manners, and in artful arrangements of fictitious yet probable events, afforded a new gratification to a people which yet retained their ancient relith for tale. telling, and became the fashionable amusement of all who proa fessed to read for pleasure: They gave rise to innumerable plays and poems, which would not orherwise have exifted ; and turned the thoughts of our writers to new inventions of the fame kind. Before these books became common, afecting fituations, the combination of incident, and the pathos of cataitrophe, were almost unknown. Distress, especially that arising from the conflicts of the tender passion, had not yet been shewn in its inoit interesting forms. It was hence our poets, particularly the dramatic, borrowed ideas of a legitimate plot, and the contplication of facts necessary to constitute a fory either of the comic or tragic Ipecies. In proportion as knowlege encreased; genius lrad wanted subjects and materials. These pieces ufurped the place of legends and chronicles. And although the old historical songs of the minstrels contained much bold adventure, heroic enterprise, and trong touches of rude delineation, yet they failed in that multiplication and disposition of circumstances, and in that de. scription of characters and erents approaching nearer to truth and reality, which were demanded by a more difeerning and curious age. Even the rugged features of the original Gothie romance were foftened by this fort of reading : and the Italian pastoral, yet with fone mixture of the kind of incidents described in Heliodorus's Ethiopic history now newly translated, was engrafted on the feudal manners in Sydney's Arcadia.'

In the three volumes now published of this work; thë ingenious author has traced only the rudeft efforts of poetical genius in England. He is, at length, however, arrived at a period when the British Muse begins to assume a nobler and inore classical appearance, when refinement of taste corrects the extravagance of imagination, and a prospect opens to the attainment of perfection in English poetry. We congratulate Mr. Warton on an epoch that offers for his investigation the moft beautiful productions in our language, and which will afford subjects more worthy the exertion of chofe critical talents, io eminently displayed in this history; a history abounding with the strongest proofs of attentive enquiry, of the most potihed taste, and moft judicious observation;

Twe

Two Letters to Dr. Newcome, Bishop of Waterford. On the

Duration of Our Saviour's Ministry. By Joseph Priestley,

LL.D. F.R.S. 8vo. 25. 6d. jewed. Johnson. THI

HIS publication consists of two letters. The first was

annexed to the author's English Harmony of the Evangelift: ; but not being large, is now reprinted, that the reader may have the whole correspondence, in a more convenient form.

The second contains an answer to the arguments advanced. by the bishop of Waterford, in his tract on the Duration of our Lord's Ministry *

The Christian fathers, in general, supposed, that our Lord's public miniftry extended no farther than one complete year. Their testimony, our author conceives, is of great importance, And he observes, that even Eusebius, the first who extended our Lord's ministry beyond two years and a half, and, as far as appears, all other writers, till the very moderns, fupposed, that the three firit evangelists related only the events of one year ; that is, they go upon the idea, that only one year intervened between the imprisonment of John, and the death of Chriit. • But this space, fays he, by your lordship’s own confession, includes all the events, that Mr. Mann and myself endeavour to bring within the compass of a year.

So that whatever the ancients thought of that part of our Lord's ministry, which preceded the imprisonment of John the Baptist (which they suppose to be recorded by John) they all agreed with me in every thing, that your lordihip finds the hardest to be reconciled to, in my hypothesis.-

Admitting what Eufebius and all the ancients supposed (and on what good authority can we dispute it) that the three first evangelists related the events of only one year of our Lord's life, can your lordship think it credible, that they should all confine themselves to the latt of three or four, when the whole was equally before them? Was there no event in the whole compass of the two or three preceding years, that they thought worth fingling out and recording ? This would be more especially extraordinary in the case of Luke, who relates - the circumstances of our Saviour's birth so very minutely, and his visits to Jerusalem at twelve years of age. A total silence in such a writer as this, to the two or three firit years of the opening of our Lord's ministry, is altogether unaccountable.'

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

. - It is observable, that long after the opinion began to be formed, that our Saviour's ministry must have continued at least two years, all the fathers, even so late as Jerom, still fpeak of oar Lord's fuffering in the fifteenth of Tiberius, which is really inconsistent with it. For what could Christian writers mean by the fifteenth of Tiberius, but the same year that Luke meant by it? In fact, it must have been copied from Luke. But this is the very year, in which that evangelist says, that John began to preach. There is no room therefore for the extenfion of our Lord's ministry beyond one year.

It cannot indeed be ftri&tly true, that our Saviour died in the same year, in which John began to preach. But the early Chriftians, having a general idea, that the whole subject of Luke's gospel, beginning with the preaching of John, was comprized within the space of little more than a year, they might, writing not as chronologers, but only mentioning facts incidentally, give the date, that Luke begins with, to all the events comprised within it promiscuously.

• Or, fince all the most early writers, who mention any date of the death of Christ according to the consuls, say that it happened when the Gemini were in that office, and their consulihip was the fifteenth of the complete years of Tiberius * they might omit that part of the year after Auguft, in which Augustus died, and give it to Augustus.-Either of these suppositions will tolerably well account for the slight inaccuracy.'

There is something remarkable in the conduct of Luke's fixing with great circumítantiality the time of the comIrencement of John's preaching; but affigning no date to the death of Christ, an event of much more consequence. Our author thinks, that his conduct is not consistent, but on the fupposition of one of these events being in his idea, fo nected with the other, in the course of his narrative, as that the date of it might easily be inferred from the date of the other, which he afferts, from the tenor of his gospel, to be the case : and in this, he presumes, he has the fanction of all the ancients,

It was, he obferves, their unanimous opinion, that only one year intervened between the imprisonment of John and the death of Jesus. And what is there, he aks, in the history of Luke, from the commencement of the preaching of

con

* That is, from the time of his being sole emperor, not from the time when he was admitted partner in the empire by Augustus.

John John to his imprisonment, that is, to Jesus's journey to Galilee, which followed immediately upon it, that can be fupposed by any reasonable construction, to take up more than a few months? It is all related in his third chapter, and the thirteen first verses of the fourth, which contains an account of nothing more than the preaching of John before the baptism of Jesus, and the temptation.

In the next section the author reconsiders and corroborates his argument, derived from the ignorance of Herod concerning Jesus, at the time of the death of John the Baptist.

Upon the bishop's hypothesis, Jesus had preached publicly almost two years, and the greatest part of the time alone, John being in prison ; and this ignorance of Herod, our author thinks, is unaccountable. But upon his own hypothesis, Jesus had not been so much exposed to public notice, more than between four and five weeks ; and therefore he fuppofes, that Herod being probably, like other kings and great men, engaged in a multiplicity of business or pleasure, he might not have heard of Jefus.

In the fourth section the author shews, that the word WATXOC, John vi. 4. is an interpolation, and does not appear to have been in the text, in the time of Irenæus, nor probably in that of Eufebius, nor yet in that of Epiphanius; as thefe vriters take no notice of that expression, though it was of importance to them in some of their writings.

The bishop, in order to represent the hurry, which he thinks our Saviour muft have been in, on Dr. Priestley's hypothesis, has drawn a plan of all his journeys from the first paísover to the next pentecost, and then computes' the number of miles he must have travelled every day. Our author reviews this computation, and finds, that there is no occasion, on his hy. pothefis, to have supposed our Lord to have travelled quite four miles per day; and where, says he, is the great im probability in this ? Few men of an active life walk less, and many perions three or four times as much the whole year through. It is besides by no means certain, though it seems to be generally taken for granted, that our Saviour always travelled on foot.'

In the remaining part of this letter, the author considers the supposed references to more than two passovers in the gospels of the three first evangeiilts, the argument for the pro.. bable duration of our Saviour's ministry from the objects of it, the transactions at the first passover, his various journeys, the harmony of the gospels according to the ancients, with several incidental circunstances.

« PreviousContinue »