Page images
PDF
EPUB

cule, but to distinguish true from false science is not the business of a single decision, but the result of the experience of ages. By the illiterate all remarkable improvements are at once condemned as impossible and therefore absurd. By the learned all remarkable improvements are effected by supposing them possible. There is a speculation in science as well as in commerce, and he who has hazarded much and lost much, does not thereby prove that his design was fundamentally wrong.

Mr. Cambridge had too much sense and too much learning to follow the steps of his predecessors in the history of Scriblerus; but yet it may be presumed that his poem was unsuccessful with the public at large, either from its making sport of what had ceased to engage the attention of philosophers, or from its treating popular superstitions and historical credulity in a vein of ridicule, too delicate for common readers.

The composition of the Scribleriad is in general so regular, spirited and poetical, that we cannot but wish the author had chosen a subject of more permanent interest. Many striking passages may be pointed out to justify this wish, and perhaps there are few descriptions so happily imagined as the approach of the army of rebusses and acrostics. The versification is elegant, and the epithets chosen with singular propriety. The events, although without much connexion, all add something to the character of the hero; and the conversations most gravely ironical, while they remind us of the serious epics, are never unnecessarily protracted.

It is to be regretted, and perhaps it may be mentioned as another hindrance to the popularity of the Scribleriad, that the author determined to avoid moral reflections, reflections which he could have easily furnished. His periodical papers exhibit a happy union of wit and sentiment, and few men were better acquainted with local manners, and the humours and whims of interest and passion. If such reflections arise naturally from the subject, they are surely not only useful, but lead to many of the most striking beauties of imagery. No zealous admirer of the flights of imagination is unwilling to be sometimes relieved by those reflections which recal his judgment. In the ardour of youth, poets are too apt to undervalue reason, but in advanced age they more readily admit its alliance with genius. Let it also be remembered how much Hudibras, the first of all English mock heroics, owes to the frequency of those reflexions and maxims, which, having become proverbial, serve to perpetuate the fame of their author.-The Scribleriad, however, will ever be considered by impartial judges, with whom popularity is not an indispensable qualification, as a poem that does honour to the taste and imagination of Mr. Cambridge, and as deserying a place with the most favourite attempts of the satirical muse.

Of the lesser pieces in this collection, the Dialogue between a Member of Parliament and his Servant, The Fakeer, and The Intruder are to be distinguished for sprightliness of wit, and felicity of diction. Public degeneracy, impertinence, and superstitious cunning are no where more elegantly satirized. These have been repeatedly printed in Dodsley's and other collections. His other occasional pieces discover the same observation of human conduct and manners, keen and shrewd, and expressed in easy and polished verse.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »