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Or damn all Shakespear, like th' affected Fool105 At court, who hates whate'er heo read at school.
But for the Wits of either Charles's days, The Mob of Gentlemen who wrote with Ease ;
NOTES. whereas in truth he was neither one nor the other. The injustice that had been done him in the first case, made him always fpeak, amongst his friends, of the blind partiality of the public in the latter, with the contempt it deserved. For however he might sometime mistake his fort, he was never the dupe of the Public judgment. Of which a learned Prelate, now living, gave me this instance: He accidentally met Bentley in the days of Phalaris; and after having complimented him on that noble piece of Criticism (the Answer to the Oxford writers) he bad him not be discouraged at this run upon him: for tho' they had got the laughers on their fide, yet mere wit and raillery could not hold it out long against a work of so much merit. To which the other replied, “Indeed, Dr. $. I am in no pain about “ the matter. For it is my maxim, that no man was ever “ written out of reputation, but by himself.”
Ibid. his defp'rate hook] Alluding to the several passages of Milton, which Bentley has reprobated, by including within hooks, fome with judgment, and some without.
Ver. 108. The Mab of Gentlemen who wrote with Ease; } The Poet has here very happily exemplified this envied quality of easy writing in the turn of the verses that expose it. These wits formed themselves, for the most part, on Suckling, a fine original genius. But on so flippery a ground it was no wonder fuch Imitators should fall; and either fink his free and easy manner into insipidity, or abuse it to ribaldry and licentioulness; they did both; till easy writing came to be defined a negligence of what they faid, and how they said it. This was called writing like a Gentleman. But as fashions take their turn, Lord Shaftesbury has introduced a new fort of Gentlemanlike writing, which consists indeed, like the other, in a negligence of what is said, but joined to much affectation in the manner of faying it.
Pulchraque, et exactis minimum diftantia, miror:
* Indignor quidquam reprehendi, non quia crasse Compofitum, illepideve putetur, sed quia nuper ; Nec veniam antiquis, sed honorem et praemia posci.
s Recte necne crocum floresque perambulet Attae Fabula, fi dubitem ; clamant periisse pudorem Cuncti pene patres : ea cum reprehendere coner, Quae · gravis Aesopus, quae doctus Rofcius egit.
NOT E s. Ver. 109. Sprat,] Rightly put at the head of the small wits. He is now known to most advantage as the friend of Mr. Cowley. His Learning was comprised in the well rounding a period : For, as Seneca faid of Triarius, “ Compositione verborum belle o cadentium multos Scholasticos delectabat, omnes decipiebat.” As to the turn of his piety and genius, it is best seen by his last Will and Testament, where he gives God thanks, that he, who had been bred neither at Eaton nor Westminster, but at a little country school by the Church-yard fide, should at last come to be a Bishop.-But the honour of being a WestminsterSchool-boy some have at one age, and some at another, and fome all their life long. Our grateful bishop, tho' he had it not in his youth, yet it came upon him in his old age.
Ver. 113. gleams thro' many a page,] The image is taken from half-formed unripe lightening, which streams along the
Sprat, Carew, Sedley, and a hundred more,
On Avon's bank, where flow'rs eternal blow,
Ver. 119. On Avon's bank,] At Stratford in Warwickshire, where Shakespear had his birth. The thought of the Original is here infinitely improved. Perambulet is a low allusion to the name and imperfections of Atta.
Ver. 121. One Tragic sentence if I dare deride,] When writers of our Author's rank have once effectually exposed turgid expression, and reduced it to its just value, which, hitherto, the small critics had mistaken for the fulbime, these latter are now apt to fupect all they do not understand, to be bombast: like the Idiot in Cervantes, who having been beat for not distinguishing between a Cur and a Greyhound, imagined every dog he VOL. IV.
Vel quia nil' rectum, nisi quod placuit fibi, ducunt ;
Vel quia turpe putant parere minoribus, et, quae
Imberbi didicere, fenes perdenda fateri.
NOTES. met, to be a Cur-dog. So our respectable Laureat will needs imitate his betters, and dare to deride too with the best.
66 In “ what raptures (says he) have I seen an audience, at the fu« rious fuftian and turgid rants of Nat. Lee's Alexander the “ Great. Let me give you a sample. Alexander, in a full « croud of courtiers, says,
“ When Glory, like the dazzling Eagle, stood
“ And I myself appear’d the leading God.
Or well-mouth'd Booth with emphasis proclaims, (Tho' but, perhaps, a muster-roll of Names) How will our Fathers rise up in a rage, 125 And swear, all shame is lost in George's Age! You'd think 'no Fools disgrac'd the former reign, Did not some grave Examples yet remain,
reflected that Fortune and the Fates tho' imaginary, are yet personified Beings. And Glory, here, is something more fubftantial; for by the line,
When Glory, like the dazzling Eagle, stood, etc. is meant that Glory appear'd in the shape of an Eagle on his crest.
The truth is, these six linės, unluckily for the Laureate's criticism, contain not only the most sublime but the most judicious imagery that poetry could conceive or paint. The first line alludes to the tradition of an Eagle's hovering over Alexander's head, at the battle of Arbela, as a presage of Victory; Lee, I suppose, might think himself at liberty to transfer it to the passage of the Granicus; and this the poet has made the ground of his fine imagination, of Glory in the shape of an Eagle, in the style of Homer, who represents Terror, Affright, and a number of such fantastic Beings, swarming on the crests of his heroes.
The representing Fortune, in the third line, as his standardbearer, is very happy. It is not only in the true spirit of poetry, but it gives us a right idea of the nature of his Asiatic expedition; and the making her tremble, as the displayed it, in the passage of the Granicus, the justest notion of the exceeding rathness of that adventure.
The fourth line greatly heightens all these images, by making the Fates themselves (who had destined the Persian empire to de