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their judgments by them. But for my part, I desire to be tried by the laws of my own country; for it seems unjust to me, that the French should prescribe here, till they have conquered. Our little sonetteers, who follow them, have too narrow souls to judge of poetry. Poets themselves are the most proper, though I conclude not the only critics. But till some genius, as universal as Aristotle, shall arise, one who can penetrate into all arts and sciences, without the practice of them, I shall think it reasonable, that the judgment of an artificer in his own art should be preferable to the opinion of another man; at least where he is not bribed by interest, or prejudiced by malice. And this, I suppose, is manifest by plain inductions: For, first, the crowd cannot be presumed to have more than a gross instinct, of what pleases or displeases them : Every man will grant me this; but then, by a particular kindness to himself, he draws his own stake first, and will be distinguished from the multitude, of which other men may think him one. But, if I come closer to those who are allowed for witty men, either by the advantage of their quality, or by common fame, and affirm that neither are they qualified to decide sovereignly concerning poetry, I shall yet have a strong party of my opinion ; for most of them severally will exclude the rest, either from the number

French peruquier, in one of Shadwell's comedies, says, “ You talk of de Chedreux; he is no bodie to me. Dere is no man can travaille vis mee. Monsieur Wildish has got my peruke on his head. Let me see, here is de haire, de curle, de brucle, ver good, ver good. If dat foole Chedreux make de peruke like me, I vil be hanga." Bury Fair, Act I. Scene II. It appears from the letter of the literary veteran in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1745, that our author, as he advanced in reputation, assumed the fa. shionable Chedreux periwig.

of witty men, or at least of able judges. But here again they are all indulgent to themselves, and every one who believes himself a wit, that is, every man, will pretend at the same time to a right of judging. But to press it yet farther, there are many witty men, but few poets ; neither have all poets a taste of tragedy. And this is the rock on which they are daily splitting. Poetry, which is a picture of nature, must generally please; but it is not to be understood that all parts of it must pleaseevery man; thereforeis not tragedy tobe judged by a witty man, whose taste is only confined to comedy. Nor is every man, who loves tragedy, a sufficient judge of it; he must understand the excellencies of it too, or he will only prove a blind admirer, not a critic. From hence it comes that so many satires on poets, and censures of their writings, fly abroad. Men of pleasant conversation, (at least esteemed so) and endued with a trifling kind of fancy, perhaps helped out with some smattering of Latin, are ambitious to distinguish themselves from the herd of gentlemen, by

their poetry ;

Rarus enim fermè sensus communis in illa
Fortunâ.

And is not this a wretched affectation, not to be contented with what fortune has done for them, and sit down quietly with their estates, but they must call their wits in question, and needlessly expose their nakedness to public view ? Not considering that they are not to expect the same approbation from sober men, which they have found from their flatterers after the third bottle. If a little glittering in discourse has passed them on us for witty men, where was the necessity of undeceiving the world ? Would a man who has an ill title to an estate, but

yet is in possession of it; would he bring it of his own accord, to be tried at Westminster? We who write, if we want the talent, yet have the excuse that we do it for a poor subsistence; but what can be urged in their defence, who, not having the vocation of poverty to scribble, out of mere wantonness take pains to make themselves ridiculous ? Horace was certainly in the right, where he said, “That no man is satisfied with his own condition." A poet is not pleased, because he is not rich; and the rich are discontented, because the poets will not admit them of their number. Thus the case is hard with writers: If they succeed not, they must starve; and if they do, some malicious satire is prepared to level them, for daring to please without their leave. But while they are so eager to destroy the fame of others, their ambition is manifest in their concernment; some poem of their own is to be produced, and the slaves are to be laid flat with their faces on the ground, that the monarch may appear in the greater majesty.*

Dionysius and Nero had thesame longing, but with all their power they could never bring their business well about. 'Tis true, they proclaimed themselves poets by soundof trumpet; and poets they were, upon

This passage, though doubtless applicable to many of the men of rank at the court of Charles II., was particularly levelled at Lord Rochester, with whom our author was now on bad terms. It is hardly fair to inquire how far this description of the discourse and talents of a person of wit and honour agrees with that given in the dedication to Marriage a-la-Mode, when, in compliment to the same nobleman, we are told, that, “Wit seems to have lodged itself more nobly in this age, than in any of the former; and that his lordship had but another step to make, from the patron of wit, to become its tyrant.” This last observation seems to have been made in the spirit of prophecy.

pain of death to any man who durst call them otherwise. The audience had a fine time on't, you may imagine; they sat in a bodily fear, and looked as demurely as they could : for it was a hanging matter to laugh unseasonably; and the tyrants were suspici. ous, as they had reason, that their subjects had them in the wind; so, every man, in his own defence, set as good a face upon the business as he could. It was known before-hand that the monarchs were to be crowned laureats; but when the show was over, and an honest man was suffered to depart quietly, he took out his laughter which he had stifled; with a firm resolution never more to see an emperor's play, though he had been ten years a making it. In the mean time the true poets were they who made the best markets, for they had wit enough to yield the prize with a good grace, and not contend with him who had thirty legions.* They were sure to be rewarded, if they confessed themselves bad writers, and that was somewhat better than to be martyrs for their reputation. Lucan's example was enough to teach them manners; and after he was put to death, for overcoming Nero, the emperor carried it without dispute for the best poet in his dominions. No man was ambitious of that grinning honour; for if he heard the malicious trumpeter proclaiming his name before his betters, he knew there was but one way with him. Mecænas took another course, and we know he was more than a great man, for he was witty too: But finding himself far

in poetry, which Seneca assures us was not his talent, he thought it his best way to be well with Virgil and with Horace ; that at least he might be a poet at the second hand : and we see how happily it has succeeded with him ; for his own bad poetry is forgotten, and their panegyrics of him still remain. But they who should be our patrons, are for no such expensive ways to fame; they have much of the poetry of Mecænas, but little of his liberality. They are for persecuting Horace and Virgil, in the persons of their successors; for such is every man, who has any part of their soul and fire, though in a less degree. Some of their little zanies yet go farther ; for they are persecutors "even of Horace himself, as far as they are able, by their ignorant and vile imitations of him; by making an unjust use of his authority, and turning his artillery against his friends. But how would he disdain to be copied by such hands! I dare answer for him, he would be more uneasy in their company, than he was with Crispinus, their forefather, in the Holy Way; and would no more have allowed them a place amongst the critics, than he would Demetrius the mimic, and Tigellius the buffoon;

gone

* Such is said to have been the answer of a philosopher to a friend, who upbraided him with giving up a dispute to the Emperor Adrian

Demetri, teque, Tigelli,
Discipulorum inter jubeo plorare cathedras.

With what scorn would he look down upon such miserable translators, who make doggrel of his Latin, mistake his meaning, mis-apply his censures, and often contradict their own ? He is fixed as a land-mark to set out the bounds of poetry:

Saxum antiquum, ingens,
Limes agro positus, litem ut discerneret arvis.

But other arms than theirs, and other sinews are required, to raise the weight of such an au

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