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Adventurer 058 [No. 58: Presumption of modern criticism censured…]
by [?]

The most elegant compliment that was paid to Addison, is of this obscure and perishable kind;

When panting Virtue her last efforts made,
You brought your Clio to the virgin’s aid.

These lines must please as long as they are understood; but can be understood only by those that have observed Addison’s signatures in the Spectator.

The nicety of these minute allusions I shall exemplify by another instance, which I take this occasion to mention, because, as I am told, the commentators have omitted it. Tibullus addressed Cynthia in this manner:

Te spectem, suprema mihi cum venerit hora,
Te teneam moriens deficiente manu.

Lib. i. El. i. 73.

Before my closing eyes dear Cynthia stand,
Held weakly by my fainting trembling hand.

To these lines Ovid thus refers in his Elegy on the death of Tibullus:

Cynthia discedens, Felicius, inquit, amata
Sum tibi; vixisti dum tuus ignis eram.
Cui Nemesis, quid, ait, tibi sint mea damna dolori?
Me tenuit moriens deficiente manu.
Am. Lib. in. El. ix. 56.

Blest was my reign, retiring Cynthia cry’d;
Not till he left my breast, Tibullus dy’d.
Forbear, said Nemesis, my loss to moan,
The fainting trembling hand was mine alone.

The beauty of this passage, which consists in the appropriation made by Nemesis of the line originally directed to Cynthia, had been wholly imperceptible to succeeding ages, had chance, which has destroyed so many greater volumes, deprived us likewise of the poems of Tibullus.

The obscurity of this philosopher’s style is complained of by Aristotle in his treatise on Rhetoric, iii. 5. We make the reference with the view of recommending to attention the whole of that book, which is interspersed with the most acute remarks, and with rules of criticism founded deeply on the workings of the human mind. It is undervalued only by those who have not scholarship to read it, and surely merits this slight tribute of admiration from an Editor of Johnson’s works, with whom a Translation of the Rhetoric was long a favourite project.