Selections from
The Spectator

By Joseph Addison

Edited and annotated by Jack Lynch,
Rutgers University — Newark

I include three numbers of The Spectator: no. 160, on genius; no. 267, on whether Paradise Lost is a heroic poem; and no. 279, on the sentiments of Milton's epic. Nos. 267 and 279 are the first and third of a series of nineteen Spectator essays on Paradise Lost. The explanatory notes and (loose) translations are my own. Please send comments and corrections to Jack Lynch.

No. 160
Monday, 3 September 1711

. . . Cui mens divinior, atque os
Magna sonaturum, des nominis hujus honorem.

Hor.

[1] There is no Character more frequently given to a Writer, than that of being a Genius. I have heard many a little Sonneteer called a fine Genius. There is not an Heroick Scribler in the Nation, that has not his Admirers who think him a great Genius; and as for your Smatterers in Tragedy, there is scarce a Man among them who is not cried up by one or other for a prodigious Genius.

[2] My Design in this Paper is to consider what is properly a great Genius, and to throw some Thoughts together on so uncommon a Subject.

[3] Among great Genius's, those few draw the Admiration of all the World upon them, and stand up as the Prodigies of Mankind, who by the meer Strength of natural Parts, and without any Assistance of Art of Learning, have produced Works that were the Delight of their own Times and the Wonder of Posterity. There appears something nobly wild and extravagant in these great natural Genius's, that is infinitely more beautiful than all the Turn and Polishing of what the French call a Bel Esprit, by which they would express a Genius refined by Conversation, Reflection, and the Reading of the most polite Authors. The greatest Genius which runs through the Arts and Sciences, takes a kind of Tincture from them, and falls unavoidably into Imitation.

[4] Many of these great natural Genius's that were never disciplined and broken by Rules of Art, are to be found among the Ancients, and in particular among those of the more Eastern Parts of the World. Homer has innumerable Flights that Virgil was not able to reach, and in the Old Testament we find several Passages more elevated and sublime than any in Homer. At the same Time that we allow a greater and more daring Genius to the Ancients, we must own that the greatest of them very much failed in, or, if you will, that they were much above the Nicety and Correctness of the Moderns. In their Similitudes and Allusions, provided there was a likeness, they did not much trouble themselves about the Decency of the Comparison: Thus Solomon resembles the Nose of his Beloved to the Tower of Libanon, which looketh toward Damascus; as the Coming of a Thief in the Night is a Similitude of the same Kind in the New Testament. It would be endless to make Collections of this Nature: Homer illustrates one of his Heroes encompassed with the Enemy, by an Ass in a Field of Corn that has his Sides belaboured by all the Boys of the Village without stirring a Foot for it; and another of them tossing to and fro in his Bed, and burning with Resentment, to a Piece of Flesh broiled on the Coals. This particular Failure in the Ancients, opens a large Field of Raillery to the little Wits, who can laugh at an Indecency but not relish the Sublime in these Sorts of Writings. The present Emperor of Persia, conformable to this Eastern way of Thinking, amidst a great many pompous Titles, denominates himself the Sun of Glory and the Nutmeg of Delight. In short, to cut off all Cavelling against the Ancients, and particularly those of the warmer Climates, who had most Heat and Life in their Imaginations, we are to consider that the Rule of observing what the French call the Bienseance in an Allusion, has been found out of latter Years and in the colder Regions of the World; where we would make some Amends for our want of Force and Spirit, by a scrupulous Nicety and Exactness in our Compositions. Our Countryman Shakespear was a remarkable Instance of this first kind of great Genius's.

[5] I cannot quit this Head without observing that Pindar was a great Genius of the first Class, who was hurried on by a natural Fire and Impetuosity to vast Conceptions of things, and noble Sallies of Imagination. At the same time, can any thing be more ridiculous than for Men of a sober and moderate Fancy to imitate this Poet's Way of Writing in those monstrous Compositions which go among us under the Name of Pindaricks? When I see People copying Works, which, as Horace has represented them, are singular in their Kind and inimitable; when I see Men following Irregularities by Rule, and by the little Tricks of Art straining after the most unbounded Flights of Nature, I cannot but apply to them that Passage in Terence.

. . . incerta hæc si tu postules
Ratione certa facere, nihilo plus agas,
Quàm si des operam, ut cum ratione insanias.

[6] In short a modern pindarick Writer compared with Pindar, is like a Sister among the Camisars compared with Virgil's Sybil: There is the Distortion, Grimace, and outward Figure, but nothing of that divine Impulse which raises the Mind above it self, and makes the Sounds more than humane.

[7] There is another kind of Great Genius's which I shall place in a second Class, not as I think them inferior to the first, but only for distinction's sake as they are of a different kind. This second Class of great Genius's are those that have formed themselves by Rules, and submitted the Greatness of their natural Talents to the Corrections and Restraints of Art. Such among the Greeks were Plato and Aristotle, among the Romans Virgil and Tully, among the English Milton and Sir Francis Bacon.

[8] The Genius in both these Classes of Authors may be equally great, but shews itself after a different Manner. In the first it is like a rich Soil in a happy Climate, that produces a whole Wilderness of noble Plants rising in a thousand beautiful Landskips without any certain Order or Regularity. In the other it is the same rich Soil under the same happy Climate, that has been laid out in Walks and Parterres, and cut into Shape and Beauty by the Skill of the Gardener.

[9] The great Danger in these latter kind of Genius's, is, least they cramp their own Abilities too much by Imitation, and form themselves altogether upon Models, without giving the full Play to their own natural Parts. An Imitation of the best Authors, is not to compare with a good Original; and I believe we may observe that very few Writers make an extraordinary Figure in the World, who have not something in their Way of thinking or expressing themselves that is peculiar to them and entirely their own.

[10] It is odd to consider what great Genius's are sometimes thrown away upon Trifles.

[11] I once saw a Shepherd, says a famous Italian Author, who used to divert himself in his Solitudes with tossing up Eggs and catching them again without breaking them: In which he had arrived to so great a Degree of Perfection, that he would keep up four at a Time for several Minutes together playing in the Air, and falling into his Hand by Turns. I think, says the Author, I never saw a greater Severity than in this Man's Face; for by his wonderful Perseverance and Application, he had contracted the Seriousness and Gravity of a Privy-Counsellor; and I could not but reflect with my self, that the same Assiduity and Attention had they been rightly applied might have made him a greater Mathematician than Archimedes.


No. 267
Saturday, 5 January 1712

Cedite Romani Scriptores, cedite Graii.

Propert.

[1] There is nothing in Nature more irksom than general Discourses, especially when they turn chiefly upon Words. For this Reason I shall wave the Discussion of that Point which was started some Years since, Whether Milton's Paradise Lost may be called an Heroick Poem? Those who will not give it that Title, may call it (if they please) a Divine Poem. It will be sufficient to its Perfection, if it has in it all the Beauties of the highest kind of Poetry; and as for those who alledge it is not an Heroick Poem, they advance no more to the Diminution of it, than if they should say Adam is not Æneas, nor Eve Helen.

[2] I shall therefore examine it by the Rules of Epic Poetry, and see whether it falls short of the Iliad or Æneid in the Beauties which are essential to that kind of Writing. The first thing to be considered in an Epic Poem, is the Fable, which is perfect or imperfect, according as the Action which it relates is more or less so. This Action should have three Qualifications in it. First, It should be but one Action. Secondly, It should be an entire Action; and Thirdly, it should be a great Action. To consider an Action of the Iliad, Æneid, and Paradise Lost in these three several Lights. Homer to preserve the Unity of his Action hastens into the midst of things, as Horace has observed: Had he gone up to Leda's Egg, or begun much later, even at the Rape of Helen, or the Investing of Troy, it is manifest that the Story of the Poem would have been a series of several Actions. He therefore opens his Poem with the Discord of his Princes, and artfully interweaves in the several succeeding parts of it, an account of every thing material which relates to them, and has passed before this fatal Dissension. After the same manner Æneas makes his first appearance in the Tyrrhene Seas, and within sight of Italy, because the Action proposed to be celebrated was that of his Settling himself in Latium. But because it was necessary for the Reader to know what had happened to him in the taking of Troy, and in the preceding parts of his Voyage, Virgil makes his Hero relate it by way of Episode in the second and third Books of the Æneid. The Contents of both which Books come before those of the first Book in the Thread of the Story, tho' for preserving of this Unity of Action, they follow it in the Disposition of the Poem. Milton, in Imitation of these two great Poets, opens his Paradise Lost with an Infernal Council plotting the fall of Man, which is the Action he proposed to celebrate; and as for those great Actions, the Battel of the Angels, and the Creation of the World, (which preceded in point of time, and which, in my Opinion, would have entirely destroyed the Unity of his Principal Action, had he related them in the same Order that they happened) he cast them into the fifth, sixth and seventh Books, by way of Episode to this noble Poem.

[3] Aristotle himself allows, that Homer has nothing to boast of as to the Unity of his Fable, tho' at the same time that great Critick and Philosopher endeavours to palliate this Imperfection in the Greek Poet, by imputing it in some Measure to the very Nature of an Epic Poem. Some have been of Opinion, that the Æneid also labours in this particular, and has Episodes which may be looked upon as Excrescencies rather than as Parts of the Action. On the contrary, the Poem which we have now under our Consideration, hath no other Episodes than such as naturally arise from the Subject, and yet is filled with such a multitude of astonishing Incidents, that it gives us at the same time a Pleasure of the greatest Variety, and of the greatest Simplicity; uniform in its Nature, tho' diversified in the Execution.

[4] I must observe also, that as Virgil in the Poem which was designed to celebrate the Original of the Roman Empire, has described the Birth of its great Rival, the Carthaginian Commonwealth: Milton with the like Art in his Poem on the Fall of Man, has related the Fall of those Angels who are his professed Enemies. Besides the many other Beauties in such an Episode, it's running Parallel with the great Action of the Poem, hinders it from breaking the Unity so much as another Episode would have done, that had not so great an Affinity with the principal Subject. In short, this is the same kind of Beauty which the Criticks admire in the Spanish Fryar, or the Double Discovery, where the two different Plots look like Counterparts and Copies of one another.

[5] The second Qualification required in the Action of an Epic Poem is, that it should be an entire Action: An Action is entire when it is compleat in all its Parts; or as Aristotle describes it, when it consists of a Beginning, a Middle, and an End. Nothing should go before it, be intermix'd with it, or follow after it, that is not related to it. As on the contrary, no single Step should be omitted in that just and regular Process which it must be supposed to take from its Original to its Consummation. Thus we see the Anger of Achilles in its Birth, its Continuance and Effects; and Æneas's Settlement in Italy, carried on through all the Oppositions in his way to it both by Sea and Land. The Action in Milton excels (I think) both the former in this particular; we see it contrived in Hell, executed upon Earth, and punished by Heaven. The parts of it are told in the most distinct manner, and grow out of one another in the most natural Order.

[6] The third Qualification of an Epic Poem is its Greatness. The Anger of Achilles was of such Consequence, that it embroiled the Kings of Greece, destroy'd the Heroes of Asia, and engaged all the Gods in Factions. Æneas's Settlement in Italy produced the Cæsars, and gave Birth to the Roman Empire. Milton's Subject was still greater than either of the former; it does not determine the Fate of single Persons or Nations, but of a whole Species. The united Powers of Hell are joyned together for the Destruction of Mankind, which they effected in part, and would have completed, had not Omnipotence it self interposed. The principal Actors are Man in his greatest Perfection, and Woman in her highest Beauty. Their Enemies are fallen Angels: The Messiah their Friend, and the Almighty their Protector. In short, every thing that is great in the whole Circle of Being, whether within the Verge of Nature, or out of it, has a proper Part assigned to it in this admirable Poem.

[7] In Poetry, as in Architecture, not only the whole, but the principal Members, and every part of them, should be Great. I will not presume to say, that the Book of Games in the Æneid, or that in the Iliad, are not of this nature, nor to reprehend Virgil's Simile of the Top, and many other of the same Kind in the Iliad, as liable to any Censure in this Particular; but I think we may say, without derogating from those wonderful Performances, that there is an Indisputable and Unquestioned Magnificence in every Part of Paradise Lost, and indeed a much greater than could have been formed upon any Pagan System.

[8] But Aristotle, by the Greatness of the Action, does not only mean that it should be great in its Nature, but also in its Duration, or in other Words, that it should have a due length in it, as well as what we properly call Greatness. The just Measure of this kind of Magnitude, he explains by the following Similitude. An Animal, no bigger than a Mite, cannot appear perfect to the Eye, because the Sight takes it in at once, and has only a confused Idea of the whole, and not a distinct Idea of all its Parts; If on the contrary you should suppose an Animal of ten thousand Furlongs in length, the Eye would be so filled with a single Part of it, that it could not give the Mind an Idea of the whole. What these Animals are to the Eye, a very short or a very long Action would be to the Memory. The first would be, as it were, lost and swallowed up by it, and the other difficult to be contained in it. Homer and Virgil have shewn their principal Art in this Particular; the Action of the Iliad, and that of the Æneid, were in themselves exceeding short, but are so beautifully extended and diversified by the Invention of Episodes, and the Machinery of Gods, with the like Poetical Ornaments, that they make up an agreeable Story sufficient to employ the Memory without overcharging it. Milton's Action is enriched with such a variety of Circumstances, that I have taken as much Pleasure in reading the Contents of his Books, as in the best invented Story I ever met with. It is possible, that the Traditions on which the Iliad and the Æneid were built, had more Circumstances in them than the History of the Fall of Man, as it is related in Scripture. Besides it was easier for Homer and Virgil to dash the Truth with Fiction, as they were in no danger of offending the Religion of their Country by it. But as for Milton, he had not only a very few Circumstances upon which to raise his Poem, but was also obliged to proceed with the greatest Caution in every thing that he added out of his own Invention. And, indeed, notwithstanding all the Restraints he was under, he has filled his Story with so many surprising Incidents, which bear so close Analogy with what is delivered in Holy Writ, that it is capable of pleasing the most delicate Reader, without giving Offence to the most scrupulous.

[9] The Modern Criticks have collected from several Hints in the Iliad and Æneid the Space of Time, which is taken up by the Action of each of those Poems; but as a great Part of Milton's Story was transacted in Regions that lie out of the reach of the Sun and the Sphere of Day, it is impossible to gratifie the Reader with such a Calculation, which indeed would be more curious than instructive; none of the Criticks, either Ancient or Modern, having laid down Rules to circumscribe the Action of an Epic Poem with any determined number of Years, Days or Hours.

[10] But of this more particularly hereafter.


No. 279
Saturday, 19 January 1712

Reddere personæ scit convenientia cuique.

Hor.

[1] We have already taken a general Survey of the Fable and Characters in Milton's Paradise Lost: The Parts which remain to be consider'd, according to Aristotle's Method, are the Sentiments and the Language. Before I enter upon the first of these, I must advertise my Reader, that it is my Design as soon as I have finished my general Reflections on these four several Heads, to give particular Instances out of the Poem now before us of Beauties and Imperfections which may be observed under each of them, as also of such other Particulars as may not properly fall under any of them. This I thought fit to premise, that the Reader may not judge too hastily of this Piece of Criticism, or look upon it as Imperfect, before he has seen the whole Extent of it.

[2] The Sentiments in an Epic Poem are the Thoughts and Behaviour which the Author ascribes to the Persons whom he introduces, and are just when they are conformable to the Characters of the several Persons. The Sentiments have likewise a relation to Things as well as Persons, and are then perfect when they are such as are adapted to the Subject. If in either of these Cases the Poet endeavours to argue or explain, to magnifie or diminish, to raise Love or Hatred, Pity or Terror, or any other Passion, we ought to consider whether the Sentiments he makes use of are proper for those Ends. Homer is censured by the Criticks for his Defect as to this Particular in several parts of the Iliad and Odyssey, tho' at the same time those who have treated this great Poet with Candour, have attributed this Defect to the Times in which he lived. It was the fault of the Age, and not of Homer, if there wants that Delicacy in some of his Sentiments, which now appears in the Works of Men of a much inferior Genius. Besides, if there are Blemishes in any particular Thoughts, there is an infinite Beauty in the greatest part of them. In short, if there are many Poets who wou'd not have fallen into the meanness of some of his Sentiments, there are none who cou'd have risen up to the Greatness of others. Virgil has excelled all others in the Propriety of his Sentiments. Milton shines likewise very much in this Particular: Nor must we omit one Consideration which adds to his Honour and Reputation. Homer and Virgil introduced Persons whose Characters are commonly known among Men, and such as are to be met with either in History, or in ordinary Conversation. Milton's Characters, most of them, lie out of Nature, and were to be formed purely by his own Invention. It shews a greater Genius in Shakespear to have drawn his Calyban, than his Hotspur or Julius Cæsar: The one was to be supplied out of his own Imagination, whereas the other might have been formed upon Tradition, History and Observation. It was much easier therefore for Homer to find proper Sentiments for an Assembly of Grecian Generals, than for Milton to diversifie his Infernal Council with proper Characters, and inspire them with a variety of Sentiments. The Loves of Dido and Æneas are only Copies of what has passed between other Persons. Adam and Eve, before the Fall, are a different Species from that of Mankind, who are descended from them; and none but a Poet of the most unbounded Invention, and the most exquisite Judgment, cou'd have filled their Conversation and behaviour with so many apt Circumstances during their State of Innocence.

[3] Nor is it sufficient for an Epic Poem to be filled with such Thoughts as are Natural, unless it abound also with such as are Sublime. Virgil in this Particular falls short of Homer. He has not indeed so many Thoughts that are Low and Vulgar; but at the same time has not so many Thoughts that are Sublime and Noble. The truth of it is, Virgil seldom rises into very astonishing Sentiments, where he is not fired by the Iliad. He every where charms and pleases us by the force of his own Genius; but seldom elevates and transports us where he does not fetch his Hints from Homer.

[4] Milton's chief Talent, and indeed his distinguishing Excellence, lies in the Sublimity of his Thoughts. There are others of the Moderns who rival him in every other part of Poetry; but in the greatness of his Sentiments he triumphs over all the Poets both Modern and Ancient, Homer only excepted. It is impossible for the Imagination of Man to distend it self with greater Ideas, than those which he has laid together in his first, second and sixth Books. The seventh, which describes the Creation of the World, is likewise wonderfully Sublime, tho' not so apt to stir up Emotion in the Mind of the Reader, nor consequently so perfect in the Epic way of Writing, because it is filled with less Action. Let the judicious Reader compare what Longinus has observed on several Passages in Homer, and he will find Parallels for most of them in the Paradise Lost.

[5] From what has been said we may infer, that as there are two kinds of Sentiments, the Natural and the Sublime, which are always to be pursued in an Heroic Poem, there are also two kinds of Thoughts which are carefully to be avoided. The first are such as are affected and unnatural; the second such as are mean and vulgar. As for the first kind of Thoughts we meet with little or nothing that is like them in Virgil: He has none of those trifling Points and Puerilities that are so often to be met with in Ovid, none of the Epigrammatick Turns of Lucan, none of those swelling Sentiments which are so frequent in Statius and Claudian, none of those mixed Embellishments of Tasso. Every thing is just and natural. His Sentiments shew that he had a perfect Insight into Human Nature, and that he knew every thing which was the most proper to affect it.

[6] Mr. Dryden has in some Places, which I may hereafter take notice of, misrepresented Virgil's way of thinking as to this Particular, in the Translation he has given us of the Æneid. I do not remember that Homer any where falls into the Faults above mentioned, which were indeed the false Refinements of later Ages. Milton, it must be confest, has sometimes erred in this Respect, as I shall shew more at large in another Paper; tho' considering all the Poets of the Age in which he writ, were infected with this wrong way of thinking, he is rather to be admired that he did not give more into it, than that he did sometimes comply with the vicious Taste which prevails so much among Modern Writers.

[7] But since several Thoughts may be natural which are low and groveling, an Epic Poet should not only avoid such Sentiments as are unnatural and affected, but also such as are mean and vulgar. Homer has opened a great Field of Raillery to Men of more Delicacy than Greatness of Genius, by the Homeliness of some of his Sentiments. But, as I have before said, these are rather to be imputed to the Simplicity of the Age in which he lived, to which I may also add, of that which he described, than to any Imperfection in that Divine Poet. Zoilus, among the Ancients, and Monsieur Perrault, among the Moderns, pushed their Ridicule very far upon him, on account of some such Sentiments. There is no Blemish to be observed in Virgil under this Head, and but a very few in Milton.

[8] I shall give but one Instance of this Impropriety of Thought in Homer, and at the same time compare it with an Instance of the same nature, both in Virgil and Milton. Sentiments which raise Laughter, can very seldom be admitted with any decency into an Heroic Poem, whose Business is to excite Passions of a much nobler Nature. Homer, however, in his Characters of Vulcan and Thersites, in his Story of Mars and Venus, in his Behaviour of Irus, and in other Passages, has been observed to have lapsed into the Burlesque Character, and to have departed from that serious Air which seems essential to the Magnificence of an Epic Poem. I remember but one Laugh in the whole Æneid, which rises in the Fifth Book upon Monoetes, where he is represented as thrown overboard, and drying himself upon a Rock. But this Piece of Mirth is so well timed, that the severest Critick can have nothing to say against it, for it is in the Book of Games and Diversions, where the Reader's Mind may be supposed to be sufficiently relaxed for such an Entertainment. The only Piece of Pleasantry in Paradise Lost, is where the Evil Spirits are described as rallying the Angels upon the Success of their new invented Artillery. This Passage I look upon to be the most exceptionable in the whole Poem, as being nothing else but a String of Punns, and those too very indifferent.

. . . Satan beheld their Plight,
And to his Mates thus in derision call'd.

O Friends, why come not on these Victors proud!
E'er while they fierce were coming, and when we,
To entertain them fair with
open Front,
And Breast, (what could we more) propounded terms
Of
Composition, strait they chang'd their Minds,
Flew off, and into strange Vagaries fell,
As they would dance, yet for a Dance they seem'd
Somewhat extravagant, and wild, perhaps
For Joy of offer'd Peace: but I suppose
If our Proposals once again were
heard,
We should compel them to a quick Result.

To whom thus Belial in like gamesome mood.
Leader, the Terms we sent, were Terms
of weight,
Of hard Contents, and full of force urg'd home,
Such as we might perceive amus'd them all,
And
stumbled many; who receives them right,
Had need, from head to Foot, well
understand;
Not understood, this Gift they have besides,
They shew us when our Foes
walk not upright.

Thus they among themselves in pleasant vein
Stood scoffing . . .


Notes

No. 160

[Motto] Cui mens divinior . . .: "Whoever has a divine soul and a mouth of noble utterances, let him have the honor of the name [poet]." From Horace, Satires, 1.4.43-44.

[1] Genius: A word with a long and complicated history, as this information from the OED shows. In Latin, the word usually meant "The tutelary god or attendant spirit allotted to every person at his birth, to govern his fortunes and determine his character, and finally to conduct him out of the world"; in later Latin, it often meant "A demon or spiritual being in general." A common English sense beginning in the seventeenth century was "With reference to a nation, age, etc.: Prevalent feeling, opinion, sentiment, or taste; distinctive character, or spirit." Another seventeenth-century development was "Natural ability or capacity; quality of mind; the special endowments which fit a man for his peculiar work" (first attested in Milton's Eikonoklastes, 1649). Addison's use here, though, suggests a newer sense: "Native intellectual power of an exalted type, such as is attributed to those who are esteemed greatest in any department of art, speculation, or practice; instinctive and extraordinary capacity for imaginative creation, original thought, invention, or discovery. Often contrasted with talent." The OED's usage note is revealing: "This sense . . . appears to have been developed in the 18th c. . . . The word had come to be applied with especial frequency to the kind of intellectual power manifested by poets and artists; and when in this application 'genius,' as native endowment, came to be contrasted with the aptitudes that can be acquired by study, the approach to the modern sense was often very close. . . . It was by the Ger[man] writers of the [later] 18th c. that the distinction between 'genius' and 'talent,' which had some foundation in Fr[ench] usage, was sharpened into the strong antithesis which is now universally current." The use of genius to refer to a person endowed with this sense of genius is first attested in 1647; this passage from the Spectator is cited to illustrate the word.

[3] Prodigies: From its original English sense of "An amazing or marvellous thing; esp. something out of the ordinary course of nature; something abnormal or monstrous," prodigy came to mean "Anything that causes wonder, astonishment, or surprise; a wonder, a marvel" in the early seventeenth century, and "A person endowed with some quality which excites wonder" beginning in the middle of the seventeenth century.

[4] Nicety: "Delicacy of feeling, scrupulosity, punctiliousness" (OED).

[4] Solomon resembles the Nose of his Beloved: "Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus" (Song of Solomon, 7:4).

[4] a Thief in the Night: "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5:2); "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10).

[5] Pindar: Pindar (b. c. 518 B.C.), Greek lyric poet, known for his Odes, often dedicated to the victors in sporting events.

[5] Pindaricks: Although the versification of Pindar's Greek odes was regular, albeit complicated, the style of poetry named for him in late seventeenth-century England made use of irregular meters. Abraham Cowley was one of the originators of the English vogue for Pindarics; Johnson, in his Life of Cowley, summarizes the widespread distaste for the form in the eighteenth century: "This lax and lawless versification so much concealed the deficiencies of the barren and flattered the laziness of the idle, that it immediately overspread our books of poetry; all the boys and girls caught the pleasing fashion, and they that could do nothing else could write like Pindar."

[5] incerta hæc si tu postules . . .: "You might as well pretend to be sane and insane at once, as to think of reasoning uncertainty into certainty" (Eunuchus, 61-63).

[7] Tully: Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman orator, now known as Cicero.

[9] Parts: "A personal quality or attribute, natural or acquired, esp. of an intellectual kind; . . . almost always in pl. Abilities, capacities, talents" (OED).

No. 267

[1] Cedite Romani Scriptores, cedite Graii: "Give up, Roman and Greek writers" (Propertius, Elegies, 2.34.65; originally applied to Virgil).

[2] This Action should have three Qualifications in it: Addison refers to Aristotle's Poetics, 1459a17 (chapter 23): "The epic poet should make plots that are dramatic — that is, plots about a single whole action that is complete, with a beginning, a middle and an end." See also paragraph 5, below.

[2] hastens into the midst of things: A reference to Horace, Ars poetica, 146-52, in which the poet is encouraged to begin in medias res.

[8] he explains by the following Similitude: From Poetics, 1450b34 (chapter 7): "To be fine, an animal . . . should have a certain magnitude. . . . Observation is confused by what is too small or too large."

No. 279

[Motto] Reddere . . . cuique: "He knows how to give the right part to each person" (Horace, Ars poetica, 316).

[1] Characters: Addison discusses Milton's characters in Spectator 273, not included here.

[2] The Loves of Dido and Æneas: In book 4 of the Aeneid.

[4] the Sublimity of his Thoughts: A commonplace of eighteenth-century Milton criticism. John Dennis writes in 1721-22, "Milton . . . carried away the Prize of Sublimity from both Ancients and Moderns," and calls sublimity Milton's "distinguishing and Characteristick Quality, . . . which sets him above Mankind." Samuel Johnson, in his Life of Milton (1779), agrees: Milton's is "an imagination in the highest degree fervid and active, to which materials were supplied by incessant study and unlimited curiosity. The heat of Milton's mind might be said to sublimate his learning, to throw off into his work the spirit of science, unmingled with its grosser parts. . . . The characteristick quality of his poem is sublimity."

[4] Longinus: The name to which the anonymous and fragmentary literary treatise, On the Sublime, was traditionally attributed. It probably dates from the first century BCE. This work on the elevated and overpowering style was little read from Antiquity through the Renaissance. It became tremendously influential, however, after Boileau's French translation in 1674. The sublime quickly became an important component in eighteenth-century aestheic theory.

[6] another Paper: It appears in no. 297, not included here.

[7] Zoilus: A Greek rhetorician and philosopher of the fourth century BCE, known for his harsh criticism of Plato and Homer. Among eighteenth-century critics, his name was a byword for malevolent and pedantic critics.

[7] Monsieur Perrault: Charles Perrault (1628-1703), French critic, who asserted the superiority of the moderns over the ancients in his Parallèles des anciens et des modernes (1688).