In the next place, our critics do not seem sensible that there is more beauty in the works of a great genius, who is ignorant of the rules of art, than in those of a little genius who knows and observes them. It is of those men of genius that Terrence speaks in opposition to the little artificial cavillers of his time:
“Quorum aemulari expotat negligentiam
Potius quam istorum obscuram diligentiam.”
AND. PROL. 20.
“Whose negligence he would rather imitate, than these men’s obscure diligence.”
A critic may have the same consolation in the ill success of his play as Dr. South tells us a physician has at the death of a patient, that he was killed secundum artem. Our inimitable Shakespeare is a stumbling-block to the whole tribe of these rigid critics. Who would not rather read one of his plays, where there is not a single rule of the stage observed, than any production of a modern critic where there is not one of them violated![A] Shakespeare was indeed born with all the seeds of poetry, and may be compared to the stone in Pyrrhus’s ring, which, as Pliny tells us, had the figure of Apollo and the nine Muses in the veins of it, produced by the spontaneous hand of Nature without any help from art.
[Footnote A: With all his fondness for classic models, Addison breaks away from conventionality of form in this essay, and pays his tribute to the genius of Shakespeare. But critical Joe could never forget the bard’s so-called “faults” of construction.]
(Steele in “The Tatler,” No. 42)
It is now twelve of the clock at noon, and no mail come in; therefore I am not without hopes that the town will allow me the liberty which my brother news-writers take in giving them what may be for information in another kind, and indulge me in doing an act of friendship, by publishing the following account of goods and moveables.
This is to give notice, that a magnificent palace, with great variety of gardens, statues, and water works, may be bought cheap in Drury-lane; where there are likewise several castles, to be disposed of, very delightfully situated; as also groves, woods, forests, fountains, and country-seats, with very pleasant prospects on all sides of them; being the moveables of Christopher Rich, Esquire,[A] who is breaking up house-keeping, and has many curious pieces of furniture to dispose of, which may be seen between the hours of six and ten in the evening.