BOOK VIII. CONTAINING ABOUT TWO DAYS.
1. Chapter i. A wonderful long chapter...
But I have rested too long on a doctrine which can be of no use to a
Christian writer; for as he cannot introduce into his works any of
that heavenly host which make a part of his creed, so it is horrid
puerility to search the heathen theology for any of those deities who
have been long since dethroned from their immortality. Lord
Shaftesbury observes, that nothing is more cold than the invocation of
a muse by a modern; he might have added, that nothing can be more
absurd. A modern may with much more elegance invoke a ballad, as some
have thought Homer did, or a mug of ale, with the author of Hudibras;
which latter may perhaps have inspired much more poetry, as well as
prose, than all the liquors of Hippocrene or Helicon.
The only supernatural agents which can in any manner be allowed to us
moderns, are ghosts; but of these I would advise an author to be
extremely sparing. These are indeed, like arsenic, and other dangerous
drugs in physic, to be used with the utmost caution; nor would I
advise the introduction of them at all in those works, or by those
authors, to which, or to whom, a horse-laugh in the reader would be
any great prejudice or mortification.
As for elves and fairies, and other such mummery, I purposely omit the
mention of them, as I should be very unwilling to confine within any
bounds those surprizing imaginations, for whose vast capacity the
limits of human nature are too narrow; whose works are to be
considered as a new creation; and who have consequently just right to
do what they will with their own.
Man therefore is the highest subject (unless on very extraordinary
occasions indeed) which presents itself to the pen of our historian,
or of our poet; and, in relating his actions, great care is to be
taken that we do not exceed the capacity of the agent we describe.