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I am afraid this extreme zeal on both sides is ill-placed ; poetry and criticism being by no means the universal concern of the world, but only the affair of idle men who write in their closets, and of idle men who read there. Yet sure, upon the whole, a bad author deserves better usage than a bad critic: for a writer's endeavour, for the most part, is to please his | readers, and he fails merely through the misfortune of an ill judgment; but such a critic's is to put them out of humour; a design he could never go upon without both that and an ill temper.
I think a good deal may be said to extenuate the fault of bad poets. What we call a genius, is hard to be distinguished by a man himself, from a strong inclination : and if his genius ibe ever so great, he cannot at first discover it any other way than by giving way to that prevalent propensity which renders him the more liable to be mistaken. The only method he has is to make the experiment by writing, and appealing to the judgment of others. Now if he happens to write ill, which is certainly no sin in itself, he is immediately made an object of ridicule. I wish we had the humanity to reflect that even the worst authors might, in their endeavour to please us, deserve something at our hands. We have no cause to quarrel with them but for their obstinacy in persisting to write ; and this too may admit of alleviating circumstances. Their particular friends may be either ignorant or insincere; and the rest of the world in general is too well-bred to shock them with a truth, which generally their booksellers are the first that
were to be wished they would reflect therefore as well deserving of manthat this extraordinary zeal and fury kind.” is ill-placed, poetry and criticism 1 Until the edition of Warburton being by no means the universal con- the reading was slightly different: cern of the world. I do not say this “Yet sure upon the whole a bad to imitate those people who make a author deserves better usage than a merit of undervaluing the arts and bad critic; a man may be the former qualifications without which they had merely through the inisfortune of an never been taken notice of. I think ill judgment, but he cannot be the poetry as useful as any other art, latter without both that and an ill because it is as entertaining, and temper."
inform them of. This happens not till they have spent too much of their time to apply to any profession which might better fit their talents; and till such talents as they have are so far discredited as to be but of small service to them. For, what is the hardest case imaginable, the reputation of a man generally depends upon the first steps he makes in the world ; and people will establish their opinion of us, from what we do at that season when we have least judgment to direct us.
On the other hand, a good poet no sooner communicates his works with the same desire of information, but it is imagined he is a vain young creature given up to the ambition of fame, when perhaps the poor man is all the while trembling with the fear of being ridiculous. If he is made to hope he may please the world, he falls under very unlucky circumstances : for, from the moment he prints, he must expect to hear no more truth than if he were a prince or a beauty. If he has not very good sense (and indeed there are twenty men of wit for one man of sense) his living thus in a course of flattery may put him in no small danger of becoming a coxcomb: if he has, he will consequently have so much diffidence as not to reap any great satisfaction from his praise : since, if it be given to his face, it can scarce be distinguished from flattery, and if in his absence, it is hard to be certain of it. Were he sure to be commended by the best and most knowing, he is as sure of being envied by the worst and most ignorant, which are the majority;' for it is with a fine genius as with a fine fashion, all those are displeased at it who are not able to follow it: and it is to be feared that esteem will seldom do any man so much good, as ill-will does him harm. Then there is a third class of people, who make the largest part of mankind,—those of ordinary or indifferent capacities; and these, to a man, will hate or suspect him: a hundred honest gentlemen will dread
· The instance of Pope himself is a of the last. Where he could count refutation of his theory that the world the deniers of his genius by tens he was almost exclusively composed of could number his adinirers by thou. fatterers and detractors, and chiefly sands.
him as a wit, and a hundred innocent women as a satirist. In a word, whatever be his fate in poetry, it is ten to one but he must give up all the reasonable aims of life for it. There are indeed some advantages accruing from a genius to poetry, and they are all I can think of,—the agreeable power of selfamusement when a man is idle or alone; the privilege of being admitted into the best company; and the freedom of saying as many careless things as other people, without being so severely remarked upon.'
'I believe if any one, early in his life, should contemplate
1 What is here said of the privi. himself, and the only part of him leges of the poetic character will not, which, to his satisfaction, he can em. I believe, bear the test of truth and ploy all day long. The muses are experience. Surely a poet is not amicæ omnium horarum; and, like particularly allowed “the freedom of our gay acquaintance, the best comsaying careless things," and his moral rany in the world as long as one character and manners are to be esti- expects no real service from them. mated, as well as his talents, before I confess there was a time when I he is entitled to a certain station in was in love with myself, anıl my first society.-Bowles.
productions were the children of self? In the MS. it followed thus: love upon innocence. I had made an “For my part, I confess, had I seen epic poem, and panegyrics on all the things in this view at first, the public princes in Europe, and thought myhad never been troubled either with self the greatest genius that erer was. my writings, or with this apology for I cannot but regret those delightful them. I am sensible how difficult it visions of my childhood, which, like is to speak of one's self with decency: the fine colours we see when cur but when a man must speak of him. eyes are shut, are vanished for erer. self, the best way is to speak truth of Many trials and sad experience liare ihimself, or, he may depend upon it, so undeceivedl me by degrees, that I others will do it for him. I will am utterly at a loss at what rate to therefore inake this preface a general value myself. As for fame, I shall confession of all my thoughts of my be glad of any I can get, and not re. own poetry, resolving with the same pino at any I miss; and as for vanity, freedom to expose myself, as it is in I have enough to keep me from hang. the power of any other to expose ing myself, or even from wishing shem. In the first place, I thank those hanged who would take it away. God and nature that I was born with It was this that made me write. The a love to poetry; for nothing more sense of my faults made me correct: conduces to fill up all the intervals of besides that it was as pleasant to our time, or, if rightly used, to make me to correct as to write."-WARthe whole course of life entertaining: Cantantes licet usque (minus via ladet). Spence relates that Pore said to It is a vast happiness to pissess the Mr. Saville: “If I was to begin the pleasures of the heal, the only plea- world again, and knew just what I sures in which a man is suflicient to do now, I would never write a verse. "
the dangerous fate of authors, he would scarce be of their qumber on any consideration. The life of a wit is a warfare upon earth; and the present spirit of the learned world is such, that to attempt to serve it any way one must have the constancy of a martyr, and a resolution to suffer for its sake. 'I could wish people would believe, what I am pretty certain they will not, that I have been much less concerned about fame than I durst declare till this occasion, when methinks I should find more credit than I could heretofore: since my writings have had their fate already, and it is too late to think of prepossessing the reader in their favour. I would plead it as some merit in me, that the world has never been prepared for these trifles by prefaces,' biassed by recommendations, dazzled with the names of great patrons,' wheedled with fine reasons and pretences, or troubled with excuses.'' I confess it was want of consideration that made me an outhor; I writ because it amused me; I corrected because it was as pleasant to me to correct as to write ; and I published because I was told I might please such as it was a credit to please. To what degree I have done this, I am really ignorant. I had too much fondness for my productions to judge of them at first, and too much judgment to be pleased with them at last. But I have reason to think they can have no reputation which will continue long, or which deserves to do so :* for they have
In the passage from his manuscript the body of his pieces, and though 10 preface, he intimates that he would names of great patrons" are giving have amused himself by writing in this preface, he could not abstain poetry, but would have forborne to from announcing in the final sentence publish what he wrote. Either he was how much they had countenanceil not honest in the opinion, or he was him. This, moreover, was to proclaiin self-deceived. He valued his fame the “recommendations” he repudiabove all things, and left no means ated, and in every issue of his works untried to protect and promote it. the preface, which contained the in
"As was the practice of his master consistency, was followed in addition Drylen, who is severely lashed for by a series of Recommendatory Poems. this in the Tale of a Tub.-- WARTON. 3 The passage in inverted commas
Pope was not justified in his was first aided in 1736. boast. He dropped the practice of 4 One of Pope's favourite topics is fulsome dedications, but he made the contempt for his own poetry. For most of his distinguished friends in this, if it had been real, he would
always fallen short not only of what I read of others, but even of my own ideas of poetry.
If any one should imagine I am not in carnest, I desire him to reflect, that the ancients, to say the least of them, had as much genius as we; and that to take more pains, and employ more time, cannot fail to produce more complete pieces. They constantly applied themselves not only to that art, but to that single branch of an art, to which their talent was most powerfully bent; and it was the business of their lives to correct and finish their works for posterity.' If we can pretend to have used the same industry, let us expect the same immortality: though, if we took the same care, we should still lie under a further misfortune: they writ in languages that became universal and everlasting, while ours are extremely limited both in extent and in duration. A mighty foundation for our pride! when the utmost we can hope,' is but to be read in one island, and to be thrown aside at the end of one age.
deserve no commendation ; and in in the morning are sure to die before this he was certainly not sincere, for night. Were we animated by the his value of himself was sufficiently same noble ambition, and ready to observed ; and of what could he be prosecute it with equal ardour, our proud but of his poetry? He writes, languages are not only confined to he says, when “he has just nothing a narrow extent of country, but are else to do;" yet Swift complains that in a perpetual Aux, not so much as he was never at leisure for conversa- fixed by an acknowledged grammar, tion, because he “had always some while theirs were such as time and poetical scheme in his head.” It was fate conspired to make universal and punctually required that his writing- everlasting.” box should be set upon his bed before ? In place of the remainder of the Jie rose; and Lord Oxford's domestic sentencc he had written in the manurelated that in the dreadful winter of script, “is but to live twenty years 1740, she was called from her bed by longer than Quarles, or Withers, or him four times in one night to supply Dennis." The doctrine of Pope was him with paper lest he should lose a unworthy the countryman of Chaucer, thought. - Dr. Johnsox.
Shakespeare, Spenser, and Milton. For the next sentence the mariu. The first three had not been “thrown script has this passage : “But I fear aside at the end of one age,” and no it is far otherwise with modern poets. one who was capable of comprehendi. We must bring our wit to the press, ing the last could seriously believo as gardeners do their Aowers to the that his reputation would be epheme. market, which if they cannot vend ral. The hypothesis, that the writers