The Editor and Editress of the Attic Chest rejoice to behold once more their friends assembled round this repository of rational amusement, furnished as they hope with abundance of materials collected during the summer recess to illumine and enliven the gloom of winter. The gayer seasons are usually considered as inducing mental idleness because we are then tempted by the chearful aspect of nature to loiter in groves and gardens rather than pursue our sedentary studies in the library. But to those who have been nurtured in habits of reading and reflection the season of relaxation is not the season of idleness. Like the bee, they are instinctively industrious to gather the honey of summer for the reflection of winter. To them every leaf and every flower, every incident and every new character and object is the parent of new ideas which interwoven with those previously acquired compose the wonderfully rich and ever-varying web of a cultivated mind. As our friends and correspondents have been so nurtured, and are bless'd with minds on which the labour of tuition has not been wasted we look forward with pleasing expectation of entertainments as various and excellent as their powers, though as yet The Chest is less plentifully stored than it was when we commenced our readings last year.
In the discharge of our editorial office we trust we shall not be thought to wander from the path of our duty if we again request our correspondents occasionally to mingle compositions in prose with their poetry. Besides the variety that such a mixture will give to our entertainment it will undoubtedly be productive of benefit to the younger part of our Society by the habit that may thereby be acquired of methodising their thoughts and giving correctness to their language; which is of much greater utility in the business of life than the more pleasing accomplishment of versifying with elegance and grace.
In poetical compositions though the faculty of judgement is necessarily exercised yet the imagination is the principal agent, and that lively faculty can very frequently charm us with little assistance from her more sober sister. The flowing sweetness and flowery language of verse, especially when united with well-chosen rhyming terminations, seduces the ear and lulls the understanding to sleep, but when she is aroused and asks herself what it is that has given her delight, she discovers the delusion and casts away the pleasing trifle which fades from her recollection as the shadow of a cloud in motion vanishes from the landscape. In prose compositions the judgement is generally the principal agent, and when the imagination is called in to assist, her province is to adorn the precepts of truth and the maxims of wisdom. To render the deductions of reason more impressive and the lessons of the moralist more palatable to sense and passion by dressing them in the the colours of fancy. A French poet of some celebrity is said to have asserted that when he sat down to write he knew not what should be his subject but having wrote one line it suggested a second, and so on from line to line with the help of a good ear catching at ideas to right and left as they frisked around him, he at length manufactured something that he called a poem.
The writer in prose cannot do so. He must previously consider his subject, must arrange the parts of it in his mind, and connect the whole in the most perspicuous manner, and give his language all the ease, the force, and fluency his theme demands and his abilities can furnish. Our avocations will not permit us to enlarge on this topic at present but we hope in the course of the winter to discuss it much more fully.
We open the readings with an elegant address from the spirit of the Attic Chest to the Editress, from a correspondent to whom we are indebited as we believe for many of our most entertaining articles and from whom we hope our repository will be enriched with many more in the course of the season. Our next is the Novembriad, a composition worthy of the motley gentleman who has for the first time thus honoured the Attic Chest with his notice; but which will gladly open its inmost recesses for the reception of this favours if he shall deign to bestow them in future. The Ode to the Fountain of Valchinsa translated from Petrach, though it may have appeared in print will probably be new to many of our audience and give pleasure by its mellifluous versification which appears in perfect harmony with the tender sentiments of the original author. We cannot conjecture what foreigner has so endeavoured to convey to our apprehension the brilliant imagery of Goethe in a literal translation of one of the most celebrated idylls of that ingenious German, and which we should be happy to see versified by some one of our Society with all the splendour the English language is capable of. The verses from Mount Latmos by Endymion need not our voices to proclaim their merits. The Song to which the disturbances of Covent Garden Theatre have given rise will amuse while those strange contests and the Stanzas of which it is a parody are remembered. The Ode from Anacreon is pleasingly translated. We believe the verses to Sir John Barington on his birthday have not appeared in the Chest though probably they may have been seen by some of our friends. We however shall read them this evening that they may hereafter have a place in our Attic album. Two Epigrams and a Charade, none of which we are certain to be original, will close the present reading. We have others which will require consideration and the Ode to the Tinder Box, as it is to be continued we shall defer till we see more of it because we suspect that it intended to burlesque our Attic Chest and we cannot permit the sacred dwelling of the Muses to be ridiculed even by Apollo himself.