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« And all the vain, infernal trumpery,
“ Stripes, hangmen, pitch, and suffocating smoak.* We are by no means disposed to apologize for Dryden in selecting for translation the close of Lucretius' fourth book. He offered none himself, which he expected would be received. He must have the credit however of rendering it into good poetry, and imparting to those passages, which are in themselves decent, a high degree of delicacy, and taste, and feeling.
There was an edition of Lucretius published in 1743, in. two vol. 8vo, with a free, prose, english version.t Such a version may answer to communicate the meaning of the abstruse parts of Lucretius ; but to those portions, where his imagination takes wing, or where he exercises his happy powers of description, we should no doubt apply the words of Roscommon ;
“ Degrading prose explains his meaning ill,
" And shows the stuff, but not the workman's skill.” In the first edition of Drake's literary hours we find several specimens from a translation of Lucretius by Mr. Good of London. I The specimens are taken from those parts of the poem, which are most embellished with imagery. The monthly reviewers were of opinion, that his examples should have been drawn from the more abstruse parts of Lucretius. In his second edition Mr. Drake professes to comply with this suggestion. But does he exhibit his translator's skill in rendering the deluded reasoning of the atomist, the presumptuous defence of idleness in the.gods, the profane sophistry of a believer in a selfcreated, selfgrowing, animal, and mate
* Compare Creech Book 3 line 1015. . + See Biog. Clas. v. i, p. 182.
In the year 1800 Mr. Good's translation of Lucretius was finished. See Drake's literary hours, 2d edit. We have seen no account of the publication of his version.
rial world ? Instead of this, he furnishes from the close of the fifth book those lines, where the poet so happily expatiates on the origin and progress of the arts ; one of the most beautifully descriptive passages in the work of Lucretius ; and this he contrasts with the admirable, yet awful and moving episode, which describes the plague of Athens. The quotation, which seems best to comport with his design, is that, in which the contradictory absurdities of Pyrrhonism are boldly denounced. Yet this is rather satyrical, than abstruse, and overthrows by ridicule what does not deserve to be controvèrted with argument.
Without questioning the judgment or liberality of Mr. Drake, we shall here furnish a part of his selection from the conclusion of the fifth book. This will exhibit Mr. Good in his best dress.
“ At specimen sationis,” &c. Lib. v, 1360.
« And from the liquid warblings of the birds
“ Whence 'woke they soon those tender, trembling sones,
« Which the sweet pipe, when by the fingers prest,
“ And human skill evolves it into day." We have now given an account of the efforts, which some of the adınirers of Lucretius have made to render this author interesting to the English scholar.* It is much to be doubted, whether any entire and yet just version can be rendered so interesting from vivacity of manner and beauty of diction, as to secure general perusal.
There are parts of Lucretius, which vie with the numbers of the best bards in the best days of Rome. But a didactic poem, founded on the reveries of Democritus and Epicurus, must be generally dull, oftentimes obscure, and sometimes very doubtful in the sense, if not unintelligible. It seems to have been a favorite employment of some men to enter the lists in favor of Lucretius. They represent him no less
pure in morals, and captivating in manner, than Homer, and · Virgil, and Ovid.t But Dryden allows, that the “ barren"ness of his subject constrains the quickness of his fancy.”I
It is impossible to gloss over the morals of Lucretius, and make them palatable to the virtuous and the wise. And it is equally fallacious and untrue, that his daring scepticism is harmless, and in no danger of extending to any, but the worshipers of the gods of Rome. The death of this philosopher and distinguished poet is worthy the impiety of his doctrines.s
* Lucretius has passed through various editions ; the best of which are the first edition by Creech, Haverca np's, and Wakefield's editions. Wakefield's Lucretius abounds in critical notes, and is commended for its accuracy by Heyne, Harle, and Eichstadt. It is a very scarce book; a great part of the sheets having been consumed, before they were published. Eichstadt is publishing an edition, in which he promises to preserve the notes of Wake. field entire.
† See Drake's lit. hours, vol. I. It was Dryden's opinion, that he would have been every where pleasing, if he had been as anxious to delight, as to instruct in his philosophy.
S Lucretius terminated his existence with his own hand. The same is true of Creech, his translator...
THE following original letter from Dr. Price to his correspondent, the late
PRESIDENT WILLARD, will we doubt not be gratifying to our readers. It evinces the interest, he is known to have felt in our affairs, that love of learning and science, which has no regard to country, and that benevolence of heart, which embraces all the wise and good. The correspondence of men, eminent for virtue and literature, is always acceptable. Dr. Price is well known, as a writer ; and was beloved by all, who enjoyed his personal acquaintance. He was a man of genuine benevolence and fellow feeling ; and, though he had his faults, they seemed to result from a heart, overflowing with love to mankind. Thus,
“ E’en his failings lean'd to virtue's side.”
Newington Green, July 21, 1781.
I THINK myself much honored by the favor of your Jetter, dated the 28th of February last, which I received about a month ago. I am made very happy by the information, it contains, that in the midst of war, and the most important struggle, that a people were ever engaged in, a new academy for promoting arts and sciences has been established at Boston. In compliance with your desire I have communicated the incorporating act and list of members to the president and secretaries of the Royal Society, attended with a letter of my own, stating the contents of your letter to me, and the hopes, which the American academy entertain, that the Royal society, governed by the neutrality of philosophy, will favor it with its encouragement. I do not yet know certainly what notice will be taken of these communications. The reply, that has been reported to me from the president, is, that it has not been customary to lay before the Royal society notices of the institution of any societies whatever.
I am obliged to be cautious in communicating the inaugural oration of your honorable and worthy president on ac
count of some political passages in it. For my own part, I approve and admire these passages ; and I request the favor of you to deliver my best respects to the author.
I have delivered your letters to Dr. Morell and Mr. Maskelyne. I have likewise got a friend to communicate to the society of arts and commerce the copy of the incorporating act, which you intended for them.
I am at present very busy in preparing for the press a fourth edition of my treatise on life annuities and reversionary payments. I shall enlarge it to two volumes, and when out of the press, which I am afraid will not be till the beginning of next summer, I shall endeavor to get it conveyed to you, in hopes of the honor of its being accepted, as a testimony of my respect for the American academy. This work having been of some use, I am anxious about making it as complete, as possible. With this view I am collecting all the observations, I can get, on population, the increase of mankind, and the duration of human life in different situations.
All, that can be worth communicating to you in the philosophical and astronomical way, is published in the numbers of the philosophical transactions of the Royal society, which come out every half year. What has lately most engaged attention is the new star, discovered near Auriga by Mr. Herschel, a gentleman at Bath, who has for some time been very curious and diligent in watching the heavens.
This star was at first taken for a comet; and the astronomer royal once expected, that it would have passed over the disk of the sun at the beginning of last month. But he has since told me, that it is doubted, whether it may not be a planet, never before discovered, moving at a much greater distance from the sun, than Saturn. It has for some time been hidden by the sun's rays. Should it appear again, something more certain will probably be determined concerning it.
Dr. Priestly never went farther in his history of philosophy, than electricity and optics. He has been for some time wholly employed in making experiments on the different sorts of air. In this branch of philosophy he has made several