154 SAMUEL JOHNSON
remarks on the actions of men, and the vicis- situdes of life, without interest and without emotion. Their courtship was void of fond- ness, and their lamentation of sorrow. Their wish was only to say what they hoped had never been said before.
Nor was the sublime more within their reach than the pathetic, for they never at- tempted that comprehension and expanse of thought which at once fills the whole mind, and of which the first effect is sudden aston- ishment, and the second rational admiration. Sublimity is produced by aggregation, and littleness by dispersion. Great thoughts are always general, and consist in positions not limited by exceptions, and in descriptions not descending to minuteness. It is with great propriety that subtilty, which in its original import means exility of particles, is taken in its metaphorical meaning for nicety of distinc- tion. Those writers who lay on the watch for novelty could have little hope of greatness; for great things cannot have escaped former observation. Their attempts were always ana- lytic ; they broke every image into fragments ; and could no more represent, by their slender conceits and laboured particularities, the pro- spects of nature, or the scenes of life, than he, who dissects a sun-beam with a prism, can