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THINGS HINGS may be seen differently, and differently shown; but actions are visible, though

motives are secret.

Life of Cowley.


Those writers who lie on the watch for novelty, can have little hope of greatness; for great things cannot have escaped former observation.


It is the fault of some writers, that they pursue their thoughts to their last ramifications; by which they lose the grandeur of generality.


There are those who condemn authors for a want of novelty, which they are only supposed to want, from their accusers having already found similar thoughts in later books; not knowing, or enquiring, who produced them first. This treatment is unjust. Let not the original author lose by his imitators,

Life of Waller.

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The skilful writer, irritat mulcet, makes a due distribution of the style and animated parts.

It is for want of this artful intertexture, and those necessary changes, that the whole of a book may be tedious though all the parts are praised.

Life of Butler.

He who purposes to be an author, should first be a student,

Life of Dryden.

The writer who thinks his works formed for duration, mistakes his interest when he mentions his enemies. He degrades his own dignity by showing that he was affected by their censures, and gives lasting importance to names, which, left to themselves, would vanish from remembrance.


To judge rightly of an author, we must transport ourselves to his time, and examine what were the wants of his contemporaries, and what were his means of supplying them. That which is easy at one time, was difficult at another.


It is not easy for any man to write upon literature, or common life, so as not to make himself known to those with whom he familiarly converses, and who are acquainted with his track of study, his favourite topics, his peculiar notions, and his habitual phrases.

Life of Addison.

The two most engaging powers of an author, are to make new things familiar, and familiar things new.

Life of Pope.

Next to the crime of writing contrary to what a man thinks, is that of writing without thinking Life of Savage.

Making any material alterations in the works of a writer, after his death, is a liberty which, as it has a manifest tendency to lessen the confidence of society, and to confound the characters of authors by making one man write by the judgment of another, cannot be justified by any supposed propriety of the alteration or kindness of the friend.

Life of Thompson.

There is nothing more dreadful to an author than neglect:-compared with which, reproach, hatred, and opposition, are names of happiness: yet this worst, this meanest fate, every one who dares to write has reason to fear.

Rambler, vol. 1, p. 11.

A successful author is equally in danger of the diminution of his fame, whether he continues or ceases to write. The regard of the public is not to be kept but by tribute; and the remembrance of past service will quickly languish, unless successive performances frequently revive it: yet in every new attempt there is a new hazard; and there are few who do not at some unlucky time, injure their own characters by attempting to enlarge them.

Ibid. p. 130.

It ought to be the first endeavour of a writer, to distinguish nature from custom; or that which is established because it is right, from that which is right only because it is established; that he may neither violate essential principles by a desire of



novelty, nor debar himself from the attainment of beauties within his view, by a needless fear of breaking rules which no literary dictator had authority to enact.

Ibid. vol. 3, P. 304.

He that lays out his labours upon temporaiy subjects, easily finds readers, and quickly loses them: for what should make the book valued, when its subject is no more?

Idler, vol. 2, p. 37.

Let honest credulity beware of receiving characters from contemporary writers.

Life of Dryden.

The task of an author is either to teach what is not known, or to recommend known truths by his manner of adorning them; either to let new -light upon the mind, and open new scenes to the prospect, or vary the dress and situation of common objects, so as to give them fresh grace and more powerful attractions. To spread such flowers over the regions through which the intellect has already made it progress, as may tempt it to return, and take a second view of things hastily passed over, or negligently regarded.

Rambler, vol. 1, p. 13.

Whilst an author is yet living, we estimate his powers by the worst performance. When he is dead, we rate them by his best.

Preface to Shakspeare, p. 1.

An author who sacrifices virtue to convenience, and seems to write without any moral purpose, even the barbarity of his age cannot extenuate;


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