ESSAYS IN CRITICISM.
Acquaintance with the British classics, and contribution of a series of articles to an evening paper.--Colman and Bonnell Thornton.-- Goldsmith again.--Reading of novels.--Objections to history.-- Voltaire.--Youthful theology.--The News.--Critical essays on the performers of the London theatres.--John Kemble and his whims of pronunciation.
I HAD not been as misdirected in the study of prose as in that of poetry. It was many yeas before I discovered what was requisite in the latter. In the former, the very commonplaces of the schoolmaster tended to put me in the right path, for (as I have already intimated) he found the Spectator in vogue, and this became our standard of prose writing.
It is true (as I have also mentioned) that in consequence of the way in which we were taught to use them by the schoolmaster, I had become far more disgusted than delighted with the charming papers of Addison, and with the exaction of moral observations on a given subject. But the seed was sown, to ripen under pleasanter circumstances; and my father, with his usual good-natured impulse, making me a present one day of a set of the British classics, which attracted my eyes on the shelves of Harley, the bookseller in Cavendish-street, the tenderness with which I had come to regard all my school-recollections, and the acquaintance which I now made for the first time with the lively papers of the Connoisseur, gave me an entirely fresh and delightful sense of the merits of essay writing. I began to think that when Boyer crumpled up and chucked away my "themes" in a passion, he had not done justice to the honest weariness of my anti-formalities, and to their occasional evidences of something better.
The consequence was a delighted perusal of the whole set of classics (for I have ever been a "glutton of books"); and