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HE period, in which LONGINUS flo
rished, with his particular character as a man, and his talents and erudition as a writer, have been so copiously handled by the ingenious Mr. SMITH, whose Translation has done justice to “ the Sublime,” that it would be vain to enlarge upon those topics. I will therefore content myself with offering a few cursory reflections on the ģenius of my Author, and the spirit of his Performance; for fashion demands a preface, by way of Master of the Ceremonies to ulher à 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,
while the finical conceits of modern "refinement have turned them into an open lawn, preserving only in favorite corners fome inelegant ornaments on the whole, they thew a forwardness to differ from, but not a taste to improve upon, ancient errors.
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 destroyed majesty ; in confequence of which, pieces of eafe and levity have assumed the place of sublimer writings.
** Without detracting from the excellence of those ancients, whose works have escaped oblivion, LONGINUS must be confessed to claim superior veneration ; if * candor of * disposition, and rectitude of judgement ; if
a • LONGINUS died in the year of Chrift 273, and, in confequence, 292 years after Viroit, who died 19 years before the birth of our Savior. a knowledge of the art he treats, and impartial reflection upon the passages he dilculles, are qualities essential to a critic. But his own performance is the best criterion of his merits.
It may appear strange, that this masterly writer should have Aumbered in mouldy libraries for lo considerable an interval :
It may therefore be worthy of a remark, that in a composition devoted to criticism the mention of writers, who were an ornament to the Auguftan age, is totally neglected. Several ex amples produced by our critic to elucidate figures occafionally diseussed, are borrowed from Homer. Collateral ones rarely fail in VIRGIL. This peculiarity cannot be accounted for, otherwise than from the reflection, that learning and genius, however exalted in public estimation, are whimsically narrowed by the fame principles, which actuate inferior dispositions. LonGINUS was a favorite with ZENOBIA, who dignified herself with the title of Queen of the East, and dictated, at the inftigation of that celebrated Amazon, the spirited challenge to but the history of letters affords many inftances of such checks to their progress i and the channel of Learning has never been more fatally stoped, than when Ignorance and Tyranny have condemned its authors to obscurity; an obscurity, from which many an ancient valuable has been drawn by the success of accident ; as, on the other hand, many a modern master-piece has been
originally AURELIAN, Emperor of Rome, which ended in her captivity, and his destruction. Surely LONGINUS must have been as conversant with the excellencies of VIRGIL's Poetry, as he confesses himself to have been with the declamations of CICERO! His plan may be concloded more immediately to have admitted a compliment to the former.
He could not, as a critic of taste and erudition, have construed the Mantuan in the infignificant light of a plagiary of the Greek. It is indeed obfervable, that LONGINUS offers the largest portion of incense to the merits of Grecian writers ; and thereby too frequently injures his favorites, no less than himself; for beauties are imagined in "passages, where defects are rather to be noticed.