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for it is always a writer's duty to make the world better, and justice is a virtue independent on time and place.
Ibid. p. 19 and 20.
It is seldom that authors rise much above the standard of their own age. To add a little to what is best will always be sufficient for present praise; and those who find themselves exalted into faine, are willing to credit their encomiasts, and to spare the labour of contending with themselves.
Ibid. p. 44.
He that misses his end, will never be so much pleased as he that attains it, even when he can impute no part of his failure to himself: and when the end is to please the multitude, no man, perhaps, has a right in things admitting of gradation and comparison, to throw the whole blame upon his judges, and totally to exclude diffidence and shame by a haughty consciousness of his own excellence.
Life of Cowley.
Many causes may vitiate a writer's judgment of his own works. On that which has cost him much labour he sets a high value, because he is unwilling to think he has been diligent in vain; what has been produced without toilsome effort is considered with delight, as a proof of vigorous faculties and fertile invention; and the last work, whatever it be, has necessarily most of the grace of novelty.
Life of Milton.
A writer who obtains his full purpose loses himself in his own lustre. Of an opinion which is no longer doubted, the evidence ceases to be
examined. Of an art universally practised the teacher is forgotten. Learning once made popular is no longer learning; it has the appearance of something which we have bestowed upon ourselves, as the dew appears to rise from the field which it refreshes.
Life of Dryden.
There is a species of writers, who without much labour have attained high reputation, and who are mentioned with reverence, rather for the possession than the exertion of uncommon abilities.
Life of Smith.
Tediousness, in an author, is the most fatal of all faults. Negligence or errors are single and local, but tediousness pervades the whole; other faults are censured and forgotten, but the power of tediousness propagates itself. He that is weary the first hour is more weary the second, as bodies formed into motion, contrary to their tendency, pass more and more slowly through every successive interval of space.
Life of Prior.
An author who asks a subscription soon finds that he has enemies. All who do not encourage him, defame him. He that wants money will rather be thought angry than poor; and he that wishes to save his money, conceals his avarice by his malice.
Life of Pope.
An author bustling in the world, showing himself in public, and emerging occasionally from time to time into notice, might keep his works alive by his personal influence; but that which
conveys little information, and gives no great pleasure, must soon give way, as the succession of things produces new topics of conversation, and other modes of amusement.
Life of Mallet.
He that expects flights of wit, and sallies of pleasantry, from a successful writer, will be often disappointed. A man of letters, for the most part, spends in the privicies of study, that season of life in which the manners are to be softened into ease, and polished into elegance; and when he has gained knowledge enough to be respected, has neglected the minuter arts by which he might have pleased.
Rambler, vol. 1, p. 83.
He by whose writings the heart is rectified, the appetites counteracted, and the passions repressed,' may be considered as not unprofitable to the great republic of humanity, even though his own behaviour should not always exemplify his rules. His instructions may diffuse their influence to regions in which it will not be inquired, whether the author be good or bad; to times when all his faults and all his follies shall be lost in forgetfulness, among things of no concern or importance to the world; and he may kindle in thousands, and ten thousands, that flame which burnt but dimly in himself, through the fumes of passion, or the damps of cowardice. The vicious moralist may be considered as a taper by which we are lighted through the labyrinth of complicated passions; he extends his radiance farther than his heart, and guides all that are within view, but burns only those who make too near approaches.
Ibid. vol. 2, p. 133.
But the wickedness of a loose or profane author, in his writings, is more atrocious than that of the giddy libertine, or drunken ravisher; not only because it extends its effects wider (as a pestilence that taints the air is more destructive than poison infused in a draught) but because it is committed with cool deliberation. By the instantaneous violence of desire, a good man may sometimes be surprised before reflection can come to his rescue: when the appetites have strengthened their influence by habit, they are not easily resisted or suppressed; but for the frigid villainy of studious lewdness, for the calm malignity of laboured impiety, what apology can be invented? what punishment can be adequate to the crime of him who retires to solitude for the refinement of debauchery; who tortures his fancy, and ransacks his memory, only that he may leave the world less virtuous than he found it; that he may intercept the hopes of the rising generation, and spread snares for the soul with more dexterity?
Ibid. p. 134
He that commences a writer may be considered as a kind of general challenger, whom every one has a right to attack, since he quits the common rank of life, steps forward beyond the lists, and offers his merit to the public judgment. To commence author, is to claim praise; and no man can justly aspire to honour but at the hazard of disgrace.
Ibid. p. 231
Authors and lovers always suffer some infatuation through the fondness for their separate objects, from which only absence can set them free; and every man ought to restore himself to the full
full exercise of his judgment, before he does that which he cannot do improperly without injuring his honour and his quiet.
Ibid. vol. 4, P. 54.
That of conniving at another man printing his works, and then denying that he gave any authority, is a stratagem by which an author, panting for fame, and yet afraid of seeming to challenge it, may (at once to gratify his vanity and preserve the appearance of modesty) enter the lists and secure a retreat; and this candour might suffer to pass undetected as an innocent fraud, but that, indeed, no fraud is innocent; for the confidence which makes the happiness of society is, in some degree, diminished by every man whose practice is at variance with his words. Life of Sir T. Browne, p. 257.
He that teaches us any thing which we knew not before, is undoubtedly to be reverenced as a master; he that conveys knowledge, by more pleasing ways, may very properly be loved as a benefactor; and he that supplies life with innocent amusement will be certainly caressed as a pleasing companion.
Idler, vol. 2, p. 184.
That Shakspeare once designed to have brought Falstaff on the scene again, we know from himself; but whether he could contrive no train of adventures, suitable to his character, or could match him with no companions likely to quicken his humour, or could open no new vein of pleasantry, and was afraid to continue the same strain lest it should not find the same reception; he has in the play of Henry V. for ever discarded him,