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down, and the mind so much relieved by beautiful description, and pathetic incident, that the impression of the whole seldom becomes too strong, and never degenerates into horror; but pleasurable emotion is the predominating result. It ought, likewise, to be mentioned to her honour, that the general tendency of her writings is favourable to virtue.*
To this mixed class also belongs the Monk of Mr. Lewis. While this production evinces talents, it must be considered as highly mischievous in its tendency, and as disgraceful to the character of the writer. In this department of fiction several German writers have made a conspicuous figure, especially the authors of the Ghost Seer, The Victim of Magical Delusion, and many others of a similar cast. The herd of low and impotent imitators of these works, with which Great-Britain, and other parts of Europe, have abounded for several years past, while they dishonour literature, and corrupt good morals, present a very curious picture of the taste and character of the
which gave them birth.
Among the peculiarities of the century under consideration may be mentioned the practice of conveying certain principles on the subjects of motals, religion, and politics, through the medium of fictitious narrative. Though many works of fiction had been formed, prior to this age, with the view to convey, to a certain extent, moral principles and impressions; yet the plan of attacking particular classes of men, or of doctrines through this medium, and of interweaving systems of morality, theology, or philosophy, through the pages of romances or novels, was seldom, if ever attempted before the eighteenth century.
* The Mysteries of Udolpbo, the Romance of the Forest, and The Italian, are considered as the best performances of this lady.
One of the earliest productions of this kind was the Adventures of Telemachus, by Archbishop FeNELON, which appeared at the beginning of the century. This work was intended to assert and exemplify those moral and political maxims which the pious and benevolent author had before taught to the Dukes of BURGUNDY and Anjou, when committed to his tuition. The style of this celebrated poem is generally admired, the fiction is ably conducted, and the moral is pure and sublime. Its extensive circulation and great popularity are well known. About the same time appeared the Tale of a Tub, one of the first publications of Dean Swift. The design of this allegorical fable was to expose certain abuses and corruptions in learning and religion, especially the latter; and it has been pronounced in felicity of wit, in force of satire, in copiousness of imagery, and in vivacity of diction, to exceed all the subsequent productions of the author. About twenty years afterwards the same celebrated writer published his Gulliver's Travels, a performance which was, perhaps, more read than any other of the age. This satirical work is levelled at human pride and folly, at the abuses of learning, at the absurdity of theorists and projectors, and, especially, at the expedients and blunders of politicians. In this, as in the former, the fable is, in general, well conducted, the satire is keen, the description admirable, and the style at once easy, graceful, and vigorous. But the work is by no means free from gross faults. It discovers a prevailing fondness in the author for filthy allusions, and indecent nauseating descriptions. The Voyage to the Houyhnhnms, in particular, is very objectionable. Its satire is that of a misanthrope; its imagery and allusions those of a mind which delighted in filth; and its fiction altogether inconsistent and irrational.
y Telemachus, though not written in verse, is so poetical in its character, that it may with propriecy be denominated a poem.
% This praise must be received with qualification. The Tale of a Tub contains some images and allusions highly indelicate, and even grossly offensive. The author is also chargeable with treating scrious things, in this performance, with too much levity.
In 1759 was published the Rasselas of Dr. Johnson, a philosophical tale, the design of which was to convey, in the oriental manner, useful lessons respecting the vanity of the world, the insufficiency of temporal things to secure human happiness, and the consequent importance of having a due regard to things eternal. . This work has been translated into almost all the modern languages of Europe, and was one of the first moral effusions of that mind which afterwards laboured so much, and so well, to “ give ardour to virtue, and confidence to truth.” About the same time appeared the Candide of M. VOLTAIRE, written to refute the system of optimism, and probably with a wish, also, to discredit the belief of a superintending Providence. There is a considerable similarity in the plan and conduct of Rasselas and Candide. But the circumstances under which they were published precluded the suspicion of either having been indebted to the other."
After the publication of the foregoing works, Mr. RIDLEY, in his Tales of the Genii, endeavoured to defend some of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity; while, on the other hand, these doctrines have been covertly attacked, in the Life and Opinions of John Bunckle, jun. in the Memoirs of several Ladies, in The Spiritual Quixote, in Dialogues of the Philosophers of Ulubre, and in several
a." I have heard Johnson,” says Mr. BosweLL, " say of these two works, that if they had not been published so closely one after the other, it would have been in vain to deny that the scheme of that which came latest was taken from the other.” Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. i. p. 282. VOL. II.
other works of fiction. That system of opinions usually styled the New Philosophy, has been exhibited with great zeal, with a view to its defence, in the fictitious writings of DIDEROT, and many other French novelists; and in those of HOLCROFT, Godwin, Mary WoLLSTONECRAFT, and Mary Hays, of Great-Britain. The same delusive and mischievous system has been successfully attacked and exposed in The Highlander, by Dr. Bissett; in the Modern Philosophers, by Miss HAMILTON; in the Memoirs of St. Godwin, in The Vagabond, in Plain Sense, and in various anonymous publications of the novel kind.
A number of other novelists, both in GreatBritain and on the continent of Europe, deserve to be mentioned, in recounting the conspicuous writers of this class, which belong to the eighteenth century. In Great Britain female novelists have been numerous and respectable. Among these Mrs. BROOKE, Mrs. INCHBALD, Mrs. SHERIDAN, Mrs. YEARSLEY, Miss SEWARD, Miss WEST, and Miss WILLIAMS have attracted most attention, and been the objects of most applause. In France, out of a long list which might be enumerated, the fictitious writings of M. DE ST. PIERRE, Madame Genlis, and M. FLORIAN, are worthy of particular distinction, especially on account of their pure moral tendency. In Germany the writers of romances and novels, during the age under review, were extremely numerous. Of these WIELAND is entitled to the first place. The appearance of his Agathon is represented as a grand epoch in the
b By the New Philosophy is meant, that system of doctrines concerning the constitution of man, and concerning morals and religion, taught by the author of the Systeme de la Nature, by Helvetius, and CONDORCET, and afterwards by several other celebrated writers, both of France and Great-Britain.
history of fictitious writing in that country. Next to WIELAND, Goethe is respectably known as a novelist, not only in his own country, but also throughout Europe. In a word, in every cultivated part of the European world novel writers have incredibly abounded, in modern times; but the author has so little knowledge even of the names of the principal works of this kind, and so much less of their respective merits and demerits, that he cannot undertake to speak of them in detail.
America has given birth to few productions in the department of romance or novel. Indeed, no work of this nature deserving respectful notice, had appeared in the United States prior to the year 1798, when Mr. CHARLES B. Brown, of Philadelphia, published his Wieland, which has been since followed by Ormond, Arthur Mervyn, Edgar Huntly, and Jane Talbot, from the pen of the same author. Mr. Brown discovers, in these several productions, a vigorous imagination, a creative fancy, strong powers of description, and great command, and, in general, great felicity of language. He has the honour of being the first American who presented his countrymen with a respectable specimen of fictitious history; and is certainly the first who succeeded in gaining much attention to his labours in this branch of literature.
It was before observed that the eighteenth century was the Age of Novels. Never was the literary world so deluged with the frivolous effusions of ignorance and vanity, in this form, as within the last thirty years. Every contemptible scribbler has become an adventurer in this boundless field of enterprise. Every votary of singular, and especi
« LESSING, a German critic, of great learning and acuteness, pronounced The History of Agathon be one of the finest efforts of genius in the eighteenth century; nay, he called it the first and only novel of the Germans, written for thinking men of classical taste.