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IN one of those Notices, no less friendly than they are able and spirited, which this new Edition of my Poetical Works has called forth from a leading political journal, I find, in reference to the numerous satirical pieces contained in these volumes, the following suggestion:* "It is now more than a quarter of a century since this bundle of political pasquinades set the British public in a roar; and, though the events to which they allude may be well known to every reader,
Cujus octavum trepidavit ætas
there are many persons, now forming a part of the literary public, who have come into existence since they happened, and who cannot be expected, even if they had the leisure and opportunity to rummage the files of our old newspapers for a history of the perishable facts, on which Mr. Moore has so often
The Times, Jan. 9, 1841.
rested the flying artillery of his wit. Many of those facts will be considered beneath the notice of the grave historian; and it is, therefore, incumbent on Mr. Moore if he wishes his political squibs, imbued as they are with a wit and humour quite Aristophanic, to be relished, as they deserve to be relished, by our great grand-children-to preface them with a rapid summary of the events which gave them birth."
Without pausing here to say how gratifying it is to me to find my long course of Anti-Tory warfare thus tolerantly, and even generously spoken of, and by so distinguished an organ of public opinion, I shall as briefly as I can, advert to the writer's friendly suggestion, and then mention some of those reasons which have induced me not to adopt it.
To that kind of satire which deals only with the lighter follies of social life, with the passing modes, whims, and scandal of the day, such illustrative comments become, after a short time, necessary. But the true preserving salt of political satire is its applicability to future times and generations, as well as to those which had first called it forth; its power of transmitting the scourge of ridicule through succeeding periods, with a lash still fresh for the back of the bigot and the oppressor, under whatever new shapes they may present themselves. I can hardly flatter myself with the persuasion that any one of the satirical pieces contained in this Volume is likely to possess this principle of vitality; but I feel
quite certain that, without it, not all the notes and illustrations in which even the industry of Dutch commentatorship could embalm them would insure to these trifles a life much beyond the present hour. Already, to many of them, that sort of relish by far the least worthy source of their success which the names of living victims lend to such sallies, has become, in the course of time, wanting. But, as far as their appositeness to the passing political events of the day has yet been tried. - and the dates of these satires range over a period of nearly thirty years-their ridicule, thanks to the undying nature of human absurdity, appears to have lost, as yet, but little of the original freshness of its first application. Nor is this owing to any peculiar felicity of aim, in the satire itself, but to the sameness, throughout that period, of all its original objects; - the unchangeable nature of that spirit of Monopoly by which, under all its various impersonations, commercial, religious, and political, these satires had been first provoked. To refer but to one instance, the Corn Question, assuredly, the entire appositeness, at this very moment, of such versicles as the following, redounds far less to the credit of poesy than to the disgrace of legislation:
How can you, my Lord, thus delight to torment all
The Peers of the realm about cheap'ning their corn,
That, being by nature so little prone to spleen or bitterness, I should yet have frequented so much the thorny paths of satire, has always, to myself and those best acquainted with me, been a matter of some surprise. By supposing the imagination, however, to be, in such cases, the sole or chief prompter of the satire — which, in my own instance, I must say, it has generally been an easy solu tion is found for the difficulty. The same readiness of fancy which, with but little help from reality, can deck out "the Cynthia of the minute" with all possible attractions, will likewise be able, when in the vein, to shower ridicule on a political adversary, without allowing a single feeling of real bitterness to mix itself with the operation. Even that sternest of all satirists, Dante, who, not content with the penal fire of the pen, kept an Inferno ever ready to receive the victims of his wrath, - even Dante, on becoming acquainted with some of the persons whom he had thus doomed, not only revoked their awful sentence, but even honoured them with warm praise; * and probably, on a little further acquaintance, would have admitted them into his Paradiso. When thus loosely and shallowly even the sublime satire of Dante could strike its roots in his own heart and memory, it is easy to conceive how light and passing may be the feeling of hostility
It his Convito he praises very warmly some persons whom be had before abused. See Foscolo, Discorso sul Testo di Dante