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Well-natur'd Garth inflam'd with early praise,
rals, it may fairly be concluded how much the public taste has been improved, and with how many good compositions our language has been enriched, since that time. When Gray published his exquisite ode on Eton College, his first publication, little notice was taken of it: but I suppose no critic can be found that will not place it far above Pope's Pastorals. On reading which ode a certain
From his lov'd haunt, fair Fancy's tomb."
“ These shall the fury passions tear,
The vultures of the mind ;' and also,
“Yet ah! why should they know their fate? Ver. 139. Talbot, &c.] All these were Patrons or Admirers of Mr. Dryden ; though a scandalous libel against him, entitled Dryden's Satyr to his Muse, has been printed in the name of the Lord Somers, of which he was wholly ignorant.
These are the persons to whose account the Author charges the publication of his first pieces : persons, with whom he was conversant (and he adds beloved) at 16 or 17 years
age; an early period for such acquaintance. The catalogue might be made yet more illustrious, had he not confined it to that time when he writ the Pastorals and Windsor Forest, on which he passes a sort of Censure in the lines following:
“While pure Description held the place of Sense,” &c. P. Every word and epithet here used is exactly characteristical
And St. John's self (great Dryden's friends before)
Soft were my numbers; who could take offence
and peculiarly appropriated, with much art, to the temper and manner of each of the persons here mentioned; the elegance of Lansdown, the open free benevolence and candour of Garth, the warmth of Congreve, the difficulty of pleasing Swift, the very gesture (as I am informed) that Atterbury used when he was pleased, and the animated air and spirit of Bolingbroke.
Ver. 146. Burnets, &c.] Authors of secret and scandalous History. P.
Ibid. Burnets, Oldmixons, and Cooks.] By no means Authors of the same class; though the violence of party might hurry them into the same mistakes. But if the first offended this
it was only through an honest warmth of temper, that allowed too little to an excellent understanding. The other two, with very bad heads, had hearts still worse. W.
Ver. 148. While pure Description held the place of Sense ?] He uses pure equivocally, to signify either chaste or empty; and has given in this line what he esteemed the true Character of descriptive poetry, as it is called. A composition, in his opinion, as absurd as a feast made up of sauces. The office of a picturesque imagination is to brighten and adorn good sense; so that to employ it only in description, is like children's delighting in a prism for the sake of its gaudy colours ; which, when frugally managed and artfully disposed, might be made to unfold and illustrate the noblest objects in nature.
W. Ver. 150.] A painted meadow, or a purling stream,] is a verse of Mr. Addison. P.
Ibid. A painted mistress, or a purling stream.] Meaning the Rape of the Lock, and Windsor-Forest. W.
Yet then did Gildon draw his venal quill;
Did some more sober Critic come abroad;
NOTES. Ver. 151. Yet then did Gildon) The unexpected turn in the second line of each of these three couplets, contains as cutting and bitter strokes of satire as perhaps can be written. It is with difficulty we can forgive our Author for upbraiding these wretched scribblers for their poverty and distresses, if we do not keep in our minds the grossly abusive pamphlets they published; and, even allowing this circumstance, we ought to separate rancour from reproof:
“Cur tam crudeles optavit sumere pænas ?" Ver. 163. Yet ne'er one sprig] Swift imbibed from Sir W. Temple, and Pope from Swift, an inveterate and unreasonable aversion and contempt for Bentley, whose admirable Boyle's Lectures, Remarks on Collins's Emendations of Menander and Callimachus, and Tully's Tuscal. Disp, whose edition of Horace, and, above all, Dissertations on the Epistles of Phalaris, (in which he gained the most complete victory over a whole army of wits,) all of them exhibit the most striking marks of accurate and extensive erudition, and a vigorous and acute understanding. He degraded himself much by his strange and absurd hypothesis of the faults which Milton's amanuensis introduced into that poem. But I have been informed that there was still an addi
Each wight who reads not, and but scans and spells, Each Word-catcher that lives on syllables, 166
tional cause for Pope's resentment: that Atterbury, being in company with Bentley and Pope, insisted upon knowing the Doctor's opinion of the English Homer; and that, being earnestly pressed to declare his sentiments freely, he said, “ The verses are good verses, but the work is not Homer, it is Spondanus.” It may, however, be observed in favour of Pope, that. Dr. Clarke, whose critical exactness is well known, has not been able to point out above three or four mistakes in the sense throughout the whole Iliad. The real faults of that translation are of another kind : they are such as remind us of Nero's gilding a brazen statue of Alexander the Great, cast by Lysippus. Pope, in a letter which Dr. Rutherforth shewed me at Cambridge in the year 1771, written to a Mr. Bridges at Fulham, mentions his consulting Chapman and Hobbes, and talks of “their authority, joined to the knowledge of my own imperfectness in the language, overruled me.” These are the very words which I transcribed at the time.
Ver. 163. These ribalds,] How deservedly this title is given to the genius of PHILOLOGY, may be seen by a short account of the manners of the modern Scholiasts.
When in these latter ages, human learning raised its head in the West; and its tail, verbal criticism, was, of
course, to rise with it; the madness of the Critics soon became so offensive, that the grave stupidity of the Monks might appear the more tolerable evil. J. Argyropylus, a mercenary Greek, who came to teach school in Italy, after the sacking of Constantinople by the Turks, used to maintain that Cicero understood neither Philosophy nor Greek: while another of his countrymen, J. Lascaris by name, threatened to demonstrate that Virgil was no Poet. Countenanced by such great examples, a French Critic afterward undertook to prove that Aristotle did not understand Greek, nor Titus Livius, Latin. It has been since discovered that Josephus was ignorant of Hebrew; and Erasmus so pitiful a linguist, that, Burman assures us, were he now alive, he would not deserve to be put at the head of a country school : and even since it has been found out that Pope had no invention, and is only a Poet by courtesy. For though time has stripped the present race of Pedants of all the real accomplishments of their predecessors, it
Ev'n such small Critics some regard may claim,
has conveyed down this spirit to them, unimpaired; it being found much easier to ape their manners than to imitate their science. However, those earlier RIBALDS raised an appetite for the Greek language in the West; insomuch, that Hermolaus Barbarus, a passionate admirer of it, and a noted critic, used to boast, that he had invoked and raised the Devil, and puzzled him into the bargain, about the meaning of the Aristotelian ENTEAEXEIA. Another, whom Balzac speaks of, was as eminent for his Revelations; and was wont to say, that the meaning of such or such a verse, in Persius, no one knew but God and himself. While the celebrated Pomponius Lætus, in excess of veneration for Antiquity, became a real Pagan ; raised altars to Romulus, and sacrificed to the Gods of Latium ; in which he was followed by our countryman Baxter, in every thing, but in the costliness of his sacrifices.
But if the Greeks cried down Cicero, the Italian Critics knew how to support his credit. Every one has heard of the childish excesses into which the ambition of being thought CICERONIANS carried the most celebrated Italians of this time. They abstained from reading the Scriptures for fear of spoiling their style: Cardinal Bembo used to call the Epistles of St. Paul by the contemptuous name of Epistolaccias, great overgrown Epistles. But ERASMUS cured their frenzy by that master-piece of good sense, his Ciceronianus. For which in the way that Lunatics treat their Physicians) the elder Scaliger insulted him with all the brutal fury peculiar to his family and profession.
His sons Joseph and Salmasius had indeed such endowments of nature and art, as might have raised modern learning to a rivalship with the ancient. Yet how did they and their adversaries tear and worry one another! The choicest of Joseph's flowers of speech were Stercus Diaboli, and Lutum Stercore maceratum. It is true, these were lavished upon his enemies : for his friends he had other things in store. In a letter to Thuanus, speaking of two of them, Clavius and Lipsius, he calls the first a monster of ignorance; and the other a slave to the Jesuits, and an Idiot. great was his love of sacred amity at the same time, that he says, I still keep up my correspondence with him, notwithstanding his Idiotry, for it is my principle to be constant in my friendships-- Je ne reste