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his ardour, and are illuminated with his perspi cuity. Our first sensation from his writings, is that of his thoughts, and nothing else. It is only by a reflex act, more or less frequent during the perusal, that we advert to the charms of his composition." *

After the observations that we have now given on the style of Steele, and on the properties essential to excellence in composition,it may be asserted without fear of contradiction, that among the numerous obligations which Sir Richard has conferred on his country, through the medium of his writings, the improvement of its language and composition cannot with propriety be enumerated. He will be found in purity and simplicity inferior to Tillotson; to Temple in elegance and harmony; to Dryden in richness, mellowness, and variety. To the two former, however, he is equal in correctness; to the latter in vivacity; and with all he is nearly on a level as to ease and perspicuity.

Steele's great misfortune has ever been the comparison so perpetually drawn with regard to style between himself and Addison. The proximity of their productions has naturally led to the consideration of their respective merits in point of composition; and though it must be allowed,

Godwin's Enquirer, p. 479.

that from the best manner of Addison Steele stands widely apart, yet are there several papers which, having been written by Sir Richard with more than usual care, and with evident marks of emulation, appear to have imbibed a portion of Addisonian grace. It is, therefore, by no means an easy task, as has been affectedly pretended, to distinguish accurately, and without hesitation, their respective papers, merely from the contrast of style. Addison is not always equal to himself in diction or construction; he is now and then feeble and remiss, and were the initials of designation withdrawn, those most familiar with the differences of style, with the shades of idiom and expression, might sometimes be foiled in the attempt.

We shall conclude this subject with remarking, that Steele is, perhaps, under this head, an exception to a general rule. It is style which usually embalms for posterity the effusions of elegant literature. Such however are the various merits of Steele in every other respect, and such the popularity of his topics, that, notwithstanding his negligent and frequently inelegant diction, he has attained, and still preserves, the rank of a British Classic.




DELICACY and correctness of Taste are the result of a clear, sound, and highly cultivated understanding, operating on a heart of great sensibility and feeling; and Criticism may be termed the application of taste, thus improved, to ascertain the beauties or defects of the various productions of the fine arts.

In what degree Sir Richard Steele was qualified by nature and education to excel in these departments, and what portion of praise is due to him as a critic and a man of taste, must be deduced from the history of his life, and from an accurate inspection of his writings.

We have already seen from his biography that he possessed warm passions, acute feelings, and a very susceptible and tender heart. Without these, the gifts of heaven, there can be no vivid

perception, physical or moral, no emotions from sublimity or beauty, no play of the imagination, no sympathetic sense of what is noble, laudable, or virtuous.

To direct into their proper channels the energies of nature, is the object of education; one of whose branches, perhaps not the least difficult of attainment, is the acquisition of a pure and correct taste. Sensibility, though essential to every individual as the foundation of this faculty, is never adequate to the necessary superstructure, without varied assistance, without great and habitual application. Those productions which the general sense of mankind has acknowledged for models of composition, must not only be studied at an early period, but such a relish obtained for their beauties as shall render them favourites and companions through life.

Though Steele was placed in a school of great eminence, and acquired a considerable knowledge of the Latin classics, he appears to have deserted it prematurely for the busy walks of life. Of Grecian literature there are few traces discoverable in his works, nor is it probable that, after entering the army, he found time to extend his acquaintance either with this language or even with the authors of ancient Rome.

His early attachment to the military profession

plunged him into scenes of dissipation incompatible with literary pursuits; nor when he relinquished the army was the immediately subsequent part of his life, or indeed the latter stage of it, much better adapted to the cultivation of critical taste. Immersed in politics or pecuniary difficulties, writing for the stage, or as an essayist on subjects which rather called for an intimate acquaintance with mankind, and a just representation of character and manners, than for philological acumen or peculiar elegance, it has unfortunately happened that but little of that pleasing disquisition on topics of taste and criticism, which so gratefully diversify the pages of Addison, is to be found in the papers of Steele.

Having mingled, perhaps, more than any individual of his day, with the various classes of society, possessing a thorough knowledge of human nature, and a quick discernment of its various shades and modifications, it was a much easier task for Sir Richard, hurried as he usually was by politics or pleasure, to sketch with a rapid though masterly hand the striking portraits and peculiar manners that he had actually witnessed, than to enter upon discussions which imply much previous study and research, and that delicacy and discrimination of taste which can only be the effect of voluntary and habitual cultivation. Sir Richard

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