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along it has been his view, to explain the nature of Man, considered as a sensitive being capable of pleasure and pain: and, though he flatters himself with having made some progress in that important science, he is, however, too sensible of its extent and difficulty, to undertake it professedly, or to avow it as the chief purpose of the present work.

To censure works, not men, is the just prerogative of criticism; and, accordingly, all personal censure is here avoided, unless where necessary to illustrate some general proposition. No praise is claimed on that account; because censuring with a view merely to find fault, cannot be entertaining to any person of humanity. Wri ters, one should imagine, ought, above all others, to be reserved on that article, when they lie so open to retaliation. The author of this treatise, far from being confident of deserving no censure, entertains not even the slightest hope of such perfection. Amusement was at first the sole aim of his inquiries. Proceeding from one particular to another, the subject grew under his hand; and he was far advanced before the thought struck him, that his private meditations might be publicly useful. In public, however, he would not appear in a slovenly dress; and, therefore, he pretends not otherwise to apologise for his errors, than by observing, that in a new subject, no less nice than extensive, errors are, in some measure, unavoidable. Neither pretends he to justify his taste in every particular. That point must be extremely clear, which admits not variety of opinion; and in some matters susceptible of great refinement, time is perhaps the only infallible touchstone of taste. To that he appeals, and to that he cheerfully submits.

N. B. THE ELEMENTS OF CRITICISM, meaning the whole, is a title too assuming for this work. A number of these elements or principles are here unfolded: but, as the author is far from imagining that he has completed the list, a more humble title is proper, such as may express any number of parts less than the whole. This he thinks is signified by the title he has chosen, viz. ELEMENTS OF CRITICISM.


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A continued train of perceptions and ideas passing through the mind-The influence of the relation of objects in directing the train of thought-Connected ideas varied by different causes-The will accelerates our ideas by dismissing, retards by dwelling upon, and raises by attending to their slighter connections A melancholy tone of mind produces melancholy ideas; a cheerful tone produces cheerful ideas Bluntness of the perceptive faculty prevents from distinguishing relations-A great flow of ideas the consequence Accurate judgment seldom connected with a great flow of ideas-Wit and judgment seldom connected-Order as well as connection observable in the succession of our ideas-The order of nature-The train of historical events, from cause to effect-The scientific train, from effect to cause-The former the synthetic, the latter the analytic method of reasoning-Order a restraint upon great geniuses Homer, Pindar, Virgil, and others, deficient in order and connection-An episode should be interesting-It should relate to the subject--It should be short-It should be introduced where the subject relents.


A MAN, while awake, is conscious of a continued train of perceptions and ideas passing in his mind. It requires no activity on his part to carry on the train; nor can he at will add any idea to the train.* At the same time, we learn from daily experience, that the train of our thoughts is not regulated by chance and if it depend not upon will, nor upon chance, by what law is it governed? The question is of importance in the science of human nature; and I promise beforehand, that it will be found of great importance in the fine arts.

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It appears, that the relations by which things are linked together, have a great influence in directing the train of thought. Taking a view of external objects, their inherent properties are not more remarkable, than the various relations that connect them together: cause and effect, contiguity in time or in place, high and low, prior and posterior, resemblance, contrast, and a thousand other relations, connect things together without end. Not a single thing appears solitary and altogether devoid of connection: the only difference is,

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* For how should this be done? what idea is it that we are to add? If we can specify the idea, that idea is already in the mind, and there is no occasion for any act of the will. If we cannot specify any idea, I next demand, how can a person will, or to what purpose, if there be nothing in view? We cannot form a conception of such a thing. If this argument need confirmation, I urge experience: whoever makes a trial will find, that ideas are linked together in the mind, forming a connected chain; and that we have not the command of any idea independent of the chain.


that some are intimately connected, some more slightly; some near, some at a distance.

Experience will satisfy us of what reason makes probable, that the train of our thoughts is, in a great measure, regulated by the foregoing relations. An external object is no sooner presented to us in idea, than it suggests, to the mind, other objects to which it is related; and in that manner is a train of thoughts composed. Such is the law of succession; which must be natural, because it governs all human beings. The law, however, seems not to be inviolable. It sometimes happens that an idea arises in the mind, without any perceived connection: as, for example, after a profound sleep.

But, though we cannot add to the train an unconnected idea, yet, in a measure, we can attend to some ideas, and dismiss others. There are few things but what are connected with many others; and when a thing thus connected becomes a subject of thought, it commonly suggests many of its connections. Among these a choice is afforded: we can insist upon one, rejecting others; and sometimes we insist on what is commonly held the slighter connection. Where ideas are left to their natural course, they are continued through the strictest connections: the mind extends its view to a son more readily than to a servant; and more readily to a neighbor than to one living at a distance. This order, as observed, may be varied by will, but still within the limits of related objects; for though we can vary the order of a natural train, we cannot dissolve the train altogether, by carrying on our thoughts in a loose manner without any connection. So far does our power extend; and that power is sufficient for all useful purposes: to have more power, would probably be hurtful, instead of being salutary.



Will is not the only cause that prevents a train of thought from being continued through the strictest connections: much depends on the present tone of mind; for a subject that accords with that tone is always welcome. Thus, in good spirits, a cheerful subject will he introduced by the slightest connection; and one that is melancholy, no less readily in low spirits. An interesting subject is recalled, from time to time, by any connection indifferently, strong or weak; which is finely touched by Shakspeare, with relation to a rich cargo at sea: to wat

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My wind, cooling my broth,
Would blow me to an ague, when I thought
What harm a wind too great might do at sea.
I should not see the sandy hour-glass run,
But I should think of shallows and of flats;
And see my wealthy Andrew dock'd in sand,
Vailing her high top lower than her ribs,
To kiss her burial. Should I go to church,
And see the holy edifice of stone, 20
And not bethink me strait of dangerous rocks?
Which touching but my gentle vessel's side,
Would scatter all the spices on the stream,
Enrobe the roaring waters with my silks;
And, in a word, but now worth this,
And now worth nothing.

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Another cause clearly distinguishable from that mow mentioned, has also a considerable influence to vary the natural train of ideas; which is, that, in the minds of some persons, thoughts and circumstances crowd upon each other by the slightest connections. I ascribe this to a bluntness in the discerning faculty; for a person who cannot accurately distinguish between a slight connection and one that is more intimate, is equally affected by each. Such a person must necessarily have a great flow of ideas, because they are introduced by any relation indifferently; and the slighter relations, being without number, furnish ideas without end. This doctrine is, in a lively manner, illustrated by Shakspeare.

Falstaff. What is the gross sum that I owe thee?

Hostess. Marry, if thou wert an honest man, thyself and thy money too. Thou didst swear to me on a parcel gilt-goblet, sitting in my Dolphin-chamber, at the round table, by a sea-coal fire, on Wednesday in Whitsun-week, when the Prince broke thy head for likening him to a singing man of Windsor; thou didst swear to me then, as I was washing thy wound, to marry me, and make me my Lady thy wife. Canst thou deny it? Did not Goodwife Keech, the butcher's wife, come in then, and call me Gossip Quickly? coming in to borrow a mess of vinegar; telling us she had a good dish of prawns; whereby thou didst desire to eat some; whereby I told thee they were ill for a green wound. And didst not thou, when she was gone down stairs, desire me to be no more so familiarity with such poor people, saying, that ere long they should call me Madam? And didst thou not kiss me, and bid me fetch thee thirty shillings? I put thee now to thy book-oath, deny it if thou canst ?

Second Part, Henry IV. Act II. Sc. 2.

On the other hand, a man of accurate judgment cannot have a great flow of ideas, because the slighter relations, making no figure in his mind, have no power to introduce ideas. And hence it is that accurate judgment is not friendly to declamation or copious eloquence. This reasoning is confirmed by experience; for it is a noted observation, that a great or comprehensive memory is seldom connected with a good judgment.

As an additional confirmation, I appeal to another noted observation, that wit and judgment are seldom united. Wit consists chiefly in joining things by distant and fanciful relations, which surprise because they are unexpected: such relations, being of the slightest kind, readily occur to those only who make every relation equally welcome. Wit, upon that account, is, in a good measure, incompatible with solid judgment; which, neglecting trivial relations, adheres to what are substantial and permanent. Thus memory and wit are often conjoined: solid judgment seldom with either.

Every man who attends to his own ideas, will discover order as well as connection in their succession. There is implanted in the breast of every man a principle of order, which governs the arrangement of his perceptions, of his ideas, and of his actions. With regard to perceptions, I observe that, in things of equal rank, such as sheep in a fold, or trees in a wood, it must be indifferent in what order they be surveyed. But, in things of unequal rank, our tendency is, to view the principal subject before we descend to its accessories or ornaments, and the superior before the inferior or dependant: we are equally averse to enter into a minute consideration


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