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the combat in the other, the contest was often more protracted, though the success in the end not less sure. It was the glory of the one, to evince at once his
power, and, by a mighty blow, to destroy the antagonist who assailed him--while it was at once the delight and pride of the other, to deprive his opponent gradually of every particle of armour and weapon of defence; and when he had riven away every obstacle and protection, exultingly and mercilessly to despatch him.
“ In real and true taste, Johnson was unquestionably superior. Discarding all those systems of criticism which had so long fettered and confined the efforts of talent, he first established criticism on the basis and foundation of common sense ; and thus liberated our future Shakspeares from those degrading chains and unworthy shackles, which custom had so long allowed the weak to impose upon the strong. His critical decisions wherever personal hostility did not interfere, and wherever his want of the finer and more delicate perception of inanimate or intellectual beauty did not incapacitate him from judging correctly-are, and ever will be, incontestable for their truth, and unequalled for their talent, and carry with them that undeniable authority and weight, which nothing can question or withstand. Had he been, perhaps, a little less prejudiced, and a little more largely gifted with that fine feeling, which is as necessary to form a great critic as a great poet, he would certainly have been entitled to take a higher place in the province of criticism than any man who went before, or shall hereafter succeed him. Of this true taste, in Warburton there was a most lamentable deficiency; with an equal lack of the more delicate and imaginative qualifications for critical judgment, he possessed none of that sound discriminative
and unerring rectitude of tact, which so eminently distinguished Johnson. The bias of his mind in criticism
seems totally perverted and warped, and the obliquity of his critical judgment is often as unaccountable as it is amazing. A great part of this is owing to the bigoted adherence which he placed in the systems of the French critics, so popular in England in the beginning of the last century; and a much greater, to his own unconquerable propensity for adjusting and fashioning every thing according to the decrees of some standard hypothesis which had taken possession of his mind, and on which, like the bed of Procrustes, he racked and tortured every unfortunate subject till he had reduced it, by a process of dislocation, into some conformity with his theories. His fondness for Dr Bentley, and Dr Bentley's style of criticism, was also another drawback in his qualifications : from him he derived that inextinguishable rage for emendation, which has descended, like the prophet's mantle, from critic to critic in succession; and, indeed, what Bentley has performed upon Milton, Warburton has no less scrupulously performed upon Shakspeare, though, perhaps, with much more acuteness and ingenuity in the exercise of his editorial capacity. For wanting this emandatory ardour-or, as he would call it, this critical vous—he despised Dr Johnson ; though, for his superabundance of it, Dr Johnson might much more justly have despised him. To Warburton, criticism was little else than ingenuity in inventing fresh varieties of the text, and dexterity and plausibility in their explanation. An author, chosen for the subject of critical illustration, was to him nothing else than a lamb led out to the slaughter, for the purpose of trying the sharpness of his knife; or an anvil, by frequently striking which his commentator might elicit scintillations and sparkles of his own. If he ever shines, it is always at the expense of his author. He seems utterly incapable of entering into the spirit of his text-of identifying himself with his subject of losing his own individu
ality and consequence in his author and his author's beauties. He had none of that true and refreshing spirit of criticism which pours down a fresh radiance on the withering beauties of antiquity, and discloses new graces wherever its illuminating resplendences are thrown, and which, like the skilful varnisher of some ancient painting, renews and renovates, in the subject, its brilliancy and richness of colouring, without altering the character of its loveliness, or impairing the symmetry of its proportions.
“ With the power of wit, both were almost equally gifted; and the precise nature and description of that wit was in both pretty nearly the same. It was not that delicately gentle and refined species which distinguished Addison, and which gave an almost evanescent air to the humour of his pages—but that coarse and forcible strength of wit, or rather humour, which it is impossible to withstand, and which breaks upon an adversary as a torrent impetuous and overwhelming-absolutely stunning and confounding with its vehemence, its energy, and its force. Those who wish to see this species of wit in its highest perfection, cannot be better referred than to the controversial writings of War. burton, or of Dr Bentley, from whom Warburton adopted his style in controversy. It was this overflowing and vigorous possession of wit, which rendered Johnson so powerful in conversation, and enabled Warburton in controversy to defy the hosts of enemies who assailed him. Of those enemies, many were more exactly learned as to the point in question than himself many equally sound reasoners—and, what is of no small advantage in reasoning, had a much better cause to defend; but they were all in the end worsted, defeated, and put to flight, by the auxiliary sallies of his wit, which came forth in volleys as unexpected as they were irresistible. That this species of wit should frequently
be coupled with scurrility, was what might readily be anticipated-it was totally destitute of delicacy, and had no refinement or polish. It perhaps cannot better be described, than by comparing it with the wit of Addison, to which it was, in all its shapes, totally dissimilar. The one was a weapon infinitely more powerful-though the other required much more of dexterity and science in its application. The former was much more the instrument of a barbarian—the latter of a civilized combatant. The one was more fitted for the lighter skirmishes of intellectual warfare, and softened courtliness of social intercourse—the other more adapted for those contests, where no quarter is given, and no indulgence is expected. In the one, wit was so highly polished as frequently to lose its effect—in the other, it was often 80 coarse and personal, as to defeat its very purpose. In the onė, it is the arch smile of contemptuous scornin the other, the loud horse-laugh of ferocious defiance. The one was more fitted for the castigation of manners -the other better adapted for the concussion of minds. The wit of the former was, like the missile of the Israelite, often overcoming from the skill with which it was thrown and that of the latter, the ponderous stone of Ajax laid hold of with extraordinary strength, and propelled with extraordinary fury. In short, the wit of Addison, when compared with that of Warburton and Johnson, was what the polished sharpness of the rapier is to the ponderous weight of the battle-axe, or as the innocuous brilliancy of the lightning to the overpowering crash of the thunderbolt.
“In poetical genius and capability, it would perhaps be unfair to compare them. What Warburton has written in verse, was merely the first juvenile trying of his
pen, and therefore hardly could hope to rival the mature and laboured poetical compositions of Johnson ; yet we may doubt whether, if Warburton had written
more of poetry, he would have written better, or ever risen above mediocrity in the efforts of poetical talent. Of those higher qualifications of imagination and sensibility, which every true poet must possess, he was, as well as Johnson, utterly destitute ; but he had not, like Johnson, a mind stored with a rich fund of poetical images, or a nice perception of harmony in sound, or melody in versification. His translations are merely the productions of a school-boy, and such productions as many a school-boy would be ashamed to own. He seems to have possessed no ear attuned to the harmony of numbers-no fondness for the music of rhyme, or the march of periods. In this department of genius, therefore, he was utterly inferior to Johnson, who, if he did not possess the fine eye and highest exaltation of a poet, could clothe every subject he descanted upon with sonorous grandeur of verse, and gorgeous accompaniments of fancy.
“In the beauty of style, and the ornaments of language, Johnson, it is well known, was most immeasurably superior. His writings have given an increase of correctness and purity, a transfusion of dignity and strength to our language, which is unexampled in the annals of literature, and which corrected, in their influence on our dialect, the diffused tameness of Addison, and the colloquialism of Swift. Whatever nearer approaches have been made to perfection in our language, have all been established on the foundation of his writings; and, perhaps, it would not be exceeding the bounds of justice to affirm, that more is due to him in the refinement of the English tongue, than to any man in any language or in any country, with the single exception of Cicero. If his own style itself is not the best model in our language, it is from it certainly that the best model must be formed; and whoever shall in the end attain that summit of perfection, it will be from the copious