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character not discriminated by any shining or emi- , subjects, he must be forgiven if he sometimes wannent peculiarities; yet that which really makes, ders in generalities, and utters the same praises though not the splendour, the felicity of life, and over different tombs. that which every wise man will choose for his The scantiness of human praises can scarcely be final, and lasting companion in the languor of age, made more apparent, than by remarking how often in the quiet of privacy, when he departs weary and Pope has, in the few epitaphs which he composed, disgusted from the ostentatious, the volatile, and the found it necessary to borrow from himself. The vain. of such a character, which the dull over- fourteen epitaphs which he has written, comprise look, and the gay despise, it was fit that the value about a hundred and forty lines, in which there should be made known, and the dignity establish- are more repetitions than will easily be found in all ed. Domestic virtue, as it is exerted without the rest of his works. In the eight lines which great occasions, or conspicuous consequences, in an make the character of Digby, there is scarce any even unnoted tenor, required the genius of Pope to thought, or word, which may not be found in the display it in such a manner as might attract regard, other epitaphs. and enforce reverence. Who can forbear to la The ninth line, which is far the strongest and ment that this amiable woman has no name in the most elegant, is borrowed from Dryden. The converses?
clusion is the same with that on Harcourt, but is If the particular lines of this inscription be ex- here more elegant and better connected. amined, it will appear less faulty than the rest. There is scarcely one line taken from commonplaces, unless it be that in which only Virtue is said
SIR GODFREY KNELLER, to be our own. I once heard a Lady of great beauty and excellence object to the fourth line, that it con
In Westminster Abbey, 1723. tained an unnatural and incredible panegyric. Of this, let the ladies judge.
Kneller ! by Heaven, and not a master taught,
Whose art was nature, and whose pictures thought; ON THE MONUMENT OF THE
Now for two ages, having snatch'd from fate
Wbate'er was beauteous, or whate'er was great, HON. ROBERT DIGBY AND OF HIS SISTER Lies crown'd with Princes' honours, Poets' lays, MARY,
Due to his merit and brave thirst of praise.
Living, great Nature fear'd he might outvio Erected by their Father the Lord Digby, in the Her works; and dying, fears herself may die. Church of Sherborne in Dorsetshire, 1727.
of this epitaph the first couplet is good, the seGo! fair example of untainted youth,
cond not bad, the third is deformed with a broken Of modest wisdom, and pacific truth; Composed in sufferings, and in joy sedate,
metaphor, the word crowned not being appliacable Good without noise, without pretension great.
to the honours or lays; and the fourth is not only Just of thy word, in every thought sincere,
borrowed from the epitaph on Raphael, but of a
GENERAL HENRY WITHERS,
In Westminster Abbey, 1729.
Thy country's friend, but more of human kind. Go, then, where only bliss sincere is known!
O! born to arms! O! worth in youth approved! Go, where to love and to enjoy are one!
O! soft humanity in age beloved ! Yet take these tears; mortality's relief,
For thee the hardy veteran drops a tear, And, till we share your joys, forgive our grief:
And the gay courtier feels the sigh sincere. These little rites, a stone, a verse receive,
Withers, adieu! yet not with thee remove Tis all a father, all a friend can give!
Thy martial spirit, or thy social love!
Amidst corruption, luxury, and rage, This epitaph contains of the brother only a gene Still leave some ancient virtues to our age : ral indiscriminate character, and of the sister tells Nor let us say (those English glories gone,) · nothing but that she died. The difficulty in writ The last true Briton lies beneath this stone. ing epitaphs is to give a particular and appropriate praise. This, however, is not always to be per The epitaph on Withers affords another instance formed, whatever be the diligence or ability of the of common-places, though somewhat diversified, writer; for, the greater part of mankind have no by mingled qualities, and the peculiarity of a procharacter at all, have little that distinguishes them fession. from others equally good or bad, and therefore no The second couplet is abrupt, general, and unthing can be said of them which may not be applied pleasing; exclamation seldom succeeds in our lanwith equal propriety to a thousand more. It is in-guage, and, I think, it may be observed that the deed no great panegyric, that there is inclosed in particle 0 !· used at the beginning of the sentence, this tomb one who was born in one year, and died always offends. in another; yet many useful and amiable lives have The third couplet is more happy; the value exbeen spent, which leave little materials for any pressed for him by different sorts of men, raíses other memorial. These are however not the pro- him to esteem; there is yet something of the comper subjects of poetry; and whenever friendship, mon cant of superficial satirists, who suppose that or any other motive,,obliges a poet to write on such tho insincerity of a coartior destrcys all lui sins
tions, and that he is equally a dissembler to the for a poet. The wit of man, and the simplicity of living and the dead.
a child, make a poor and vulgar contrast, and raise At the third couplet I should wish the epitaph no ideas of excellence either intellectual or moral. to close, but that I should be unwilling to lose the In the next couplet rage is less properly introtF0 next lines, which yet are dearly bought if duced after the mention of mildness and gentleness, they cannot be retained without the four that fol- which are made the constituents of his character; low them.
for a man so mild and gentle to temper his rage, was
not difficult. ON
The next line is inharmonious in its sound, and MR. ELIJAH FENTON,
mean in its conception; the opposition is obvious,
and the word lash used absolutely, and without any At Easthamstead in Berkshire, 1730.
modification, is gross and improper. This modest stone, what few vain marbles can,
To be above temptation in poverty, and free from May truly say, 'Here lies an honest man!'
corruption among the Great, is indeed such a pecuA Poet, blest beyond the poet's fate,
liarity as deserved notice. But to be a safe comWhom heaven kept sacred from the Proud and Great; panion, is a praise merely negative, arising not Foe to loud praise, and friend to learned ease, from possession of virtue, but the absence of vice, Content with science in the vale of peace.
and that one of the most odious. Calmly he look'd on either life, and here
As little can be added to his character, by asSaw nothing to regret, or there to fear; From Nature's temperate feast rose satisfied,
serting that he was lamented in his end. Every Thank'd heaven that he lived, and that he died.
man that dies is, at least by the writer of his epi
taph, supposed to be lamented; and therefore this The first couplet of this epitaph is borrowed from general lamentation does no honour to Gay. Crashaw. The four next lines contain a species of The first eight lines have no grammar; the adpraise peculiar, original, and just. Here, there-jectives are without any substantives and the epi. fore, the inscription should have ended, the latter thets without a subject. part containing nothing but what is common to The thought in the last line, that Gay is buried every man who is wise and good. The character in the bosoms of the worthy and the good, who are of Fenton was so amiable that I cannot forbear to distinguished only to lengthen the line, is so dark wish for some poet or biographer to display it that few understand it; and so harsh, when it is more fully for the advantage of posterity. If he explained, that still fewer approve. did not stand in the first rank of genius, he may claim a place in the second; and, whatever criticism may object to his writings, censure could find
SIR ISAAC NEWTON, very little to blame in his life.
In Westminster Abbey.
Testantus, Tempus, Natur, Cælum:
Hoc marmoe fatetur.
Nature, and Nature's laws, lay hid in night:
God said, Let Neroton be! And all was light.
Of this epitaph, short as it is, the faults seem not Above temptation, in a low estate,
to be very few. Why part should be Latin, and And uncorrupted, even among the Great:
part English, is not easy to discover. In the Latin A safe companion and an easy friend,
the opposition of Immortalis and Mortalis, is a l'nblamed through life, lamented in thy end. These are thy honours! not that here thy bust
mere sound, or a mere quibble; he is not immortal Is mird with heroes, or with kings thy dust!
in any sense contrary to that in which he is mortal. But that the Worthy and the Good shall say,
In the verses the thought is obvious, and the Striking their pensive bosoms-Here lies Gay! words night and light are too nearly allied.
As Gay was the favourite of our author, this epitaph was probably written with an uncommon de
EDMUND DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM. gree of attention; yet it is not more successfully excented than the rest, for it will not always hap Who died in the 19th Year of his Age, 1735. pes that the success of a poet is proportionate to his labur. The same observation may be extended
If modest youth, with cool reflection crown'd,
And every opening virtue blooming round, to all works of imagination, which are often influ
Could save a parent's justest pride from fate, enerd by causes wholly out of the performer's Or add one patriot to a sinking state; power, by hints of which he perceives not the ori. This weeping marble had not ask'd thy tear, gin, by sudden elevations of mind which he cannot Or sadly told how many hopes lie here! produce in himself, and which sometimes rise when
The living virtue now had shone approved, he expects them least.
The senate heard him, and his country loved The two parts of the first line are only echoes of
Yet softer honours, and less noisy fame, each other; gentle manners and mild affections, if
Attend the shade of gentle Buckingham:
In whom a race, for courage famed, and art, they mean any thing, must mean the same.
Ends in the milder merit of the heart: That Gay was a man in wit is a very frigid com And, chiefs or sages, long to Britain given, mendation; to have the wit of a man is not much Pays the last tribute of a saint to Heaven.
This epitaph Mr. Warburton prefers to the rest; that though he wrote the epitaph in a state of unbut I know not for what reason. To crown with certainty, yet it could not be laid over him till his reflection, is surely a mode of speech approaching grave was made. Such is the folly of wit when it to nonsense. Opening virtues blooming round, is is ill employed. something like tautology: the six following lines The world has but little new; even this wretchare poor and prosaic. Art is in another coupletedness seems to have been borrowed from the folused for arts, that a rhyme may be had to heart. lowing tuneless lines; The six last lines are the best, but not excellent. The rest of his sepulchral performances hardly
Ludovici Areosti humantur ossa
Sub hoc marmore, vel sub hac humo, deserve the notice of criticism. The contemptible
Sub quicquid voluit benignus hæres, * Dialogue' between He and She should have been
Sive hürede benignior comes, seu suppressed for the author's sake.
Opportunius incidens Viator : In his last epitaph on himself, in which he at Nam scire haud potuit futura, sed nec tempts to be jocular upon one of the few things that Tanti erat vacuum sibi cadaver make wise men serious, he confounds the living Ut utnam cuperet parare vivens, man with the dead:
Vivens ista tamen sibi caravit,
Quæ inscribi voluit suo sepulchro
Olim siquod haberetis sepulchrum.
Surely Ariosto did not venture to expect that his When a man is once buried, the question, under trifle would have ever had such an illustrious imiwhat he is buried, is easily decided. Ho forgot, tator.
I Am inclined to think that both the writers of books, |I wish we had the humanity to reflect, that even the and the readers of them, are generally not a little un- worst authors might, in their endeavour to please us, reasonable in their expectations. The first seem to deserve something at our hands. We have no cause fancy that the world must approve whatever they pro- to quarrel with them but for their obstinacy in perduce, and the latter to imagine that authors are obliged sisting to write; and this, too, may admit of aileviato please them at any rate. Methinks, as on the one ting circumstances. Their particular friends may be hand no single man is born with a right of controlling either ignorant or insincere; and the rest of the world the opinions of all the rest, so, on the other, the world in general is too well bred to shock them with a has no title to demand that the whole care and time of truth which generally their booksellers are the first any particular person should be sacrificed to its enter that inform them of. This happens not till they have tainment; therefore I cannot but believe that writers spent too much of their time to apply to any profesand readers are under equal obligations, for as much sion which might better fit their talents, and till such fame or pleasure as each affords the other. talents as they have are so far discredited as to be of
Every one acknowledges it would be a wild notion but small service to them. For (what is the hardest to expect perfection in any work of man; and yet one case imaginable) the reputation of a man generally would think the contrary was taken for granted, by depends upon the first step he makes in the world; the judgment commonly passed upon poems. A critic and people will establish their opinion of us from supposes he has done his part, if he proves a writer to what we do at that season when we have least judge have failed in an expression, or erred in any particular ment to direct us. point; and can it then be wondered at, if the poets in On the other hand, a good poet no sooner comgeneral seem resolved not to own themselves in any municates his works with the same desire of inforerror? For as long as one side will make no allow- mation, but it is imagined he is a vain young creature, ances, the other will be brought to no acknowledg-given up to the ambition of fame, when perhaps the
poor man is all the while trembling with the fear of I am afraid this extremne zeal on both sid is ill-being ridiculous. If he is made to hope he may please placed; Poetry and Criticism being by no means the the world, he falls under very unlucky circumstances; universal concern of the world, but only the affair for, from the moment he prints, he must expect to of idle men who write in their closets, and of idle hear no more truth than if he were a prince or a men who read there.
beauty. If he has not very good sense, (and indeed Yet sure, upon the whole, a bad author deserves there are twenty men of wit for one man of sense,) better usage than a bad critic; for a writer's endea- his living thus in a course of flattery may put him vour, for the most part, is to please his readers, and in no small danger of becoming a coxcomb; if he he fails merely through the misfortune of an ill- has, he will, consequently, have so much diffidence judgment; but such a critic's is to put them out of as not to reap any great satisfaction from his praise ; humour: a design he could never go upon without since, if it be given to his face, it can scarce be disboth that and an ill-temper.
tinguished from flattery; and if in his absence, it is I think a good deal may be said to extenuate the hard to be certain of it. Were he sure to be comfanlts of bad poets. What we call a Genius is hard mended by the best and most knowing, he is as sure to be distinguished by a man himself from a strong of being envied by the worst and most ignorant, inclination; and if his genius be ever so great, he which are the majority; for it is with a fine genius as carinot at first discover it in any other way, than by with a fine fashion; all those are displeased at it who giving way to that prevalent propensity which renders are not able to follow it; and it is to be feared that him the more liable to be mistaken. The only me. esteem will seldom do any man so much good as illthod he has, is to make the experiment by writing, will does him harrn. Then there is a third class of and appealing to the judgment of others. Now, if people, who make the largest part of mankind, those he happens to write ill (which is certainly no sin in of ordinary or indifferent capacities, and these, to a itself) he is immediately made an object of ridiculo.Iman, will hate or suspect him; a hundred honest
gentlemen will dread him as a wit, and a hundred fis but the knowledge of the sense of our predeces. innocent women as a satirist. In a word, whatever sors. Therefore they who say our thoughts are not be his fate in poetry, it is ten to one but he must give our own, because they resemble the Ancients, may up all the reasonable aims of life for it. There are, as well say our faces are not our own, because they indeed, some advantages accruing from a genius to are like our fathers; and indeed it is very unreasonpoetry, and they are all I can think of, the agreeable able that people should expect us to be scholars, and power of self-amusement when a man is idle or alone; yet be angry to find us so. the privilege of being admitted into the best company; I fairly confess that I have served myself all I and the freedom of saying as many careless things could by reading; that I made use of the judgment as other people, without being so severely remarked of authors dead and living ; that I omitted no means upon.
in my power to be informed of my errors, both by my I believe if any one, early in his life, should con- friends and enemies: but the true reason these pieces template the dangerous fate of authors, he would are not more correct, is owing to the consideration scarce be of their number on any consideration. how short a time they and I have to live: one may The life of a wit is a warfare upon earth ; and the be ashamed to consume half one's days in bringing present spirit of the learned world is such, that to sense and rhyme together; and what critic can be so attempt to serve it, any way, one must have the con- unreasonable, as not to leave a man time enough for stancy of a martyr, and a resolution to suffer for its any more serious employment, or more agreeable sake. I could wish people would believe, what I am amusement ? pretty certain they will not, that I have been much The only plea I shall use for the favour of the publess concerned about fame than I durst declare till lic is, that I have as great a respect for it as most this occasion, when, methinks, I should find more authors have for themselves; and that I have sacricredit than I could heretofore, since my writings ficed much of my own self-love for its sake, in prehave had their fate already, and it is too late to think venting not only many mean things from seeing the of prepossessing the reader in their favour. I would light, but many which I thought tolerable. I would plead it as some merit in me, that the world has never not be like those authors who forgive themselves been prepared for these trifles by prefaces, biassed by some particular lines for the sake of a whole poem, recommendation, dazzled with the names of great and, vice versa, a whole poem for the sake of some patrons, wheedled with fine reasons and pretences, particular lines. I believe no one qualification is so or troubled with excuses. I confess it was want of likely to make a good writer as the power of rejectconsideration that made me an author; I writ, being his own thoughts and it must be this, if any thing, cause it amused me; I corrected, because it was as that can give me a chance to be one. For what I pleasant to me to correct as to write ; and I publish- have published, I can only hope to be pardoned ; but ed, because I was told I might please such as it was for what I have burned, I deserve to be praised. On a credit to please. To what degree I have done this this account the world is under some obligation to I am really ignorant: I had too much fondness for me, and owes me the justice, in return, to look upon my productions to judge of them at first, and too no verses as mine that are not inserted in this Colmuch judgment to be pleased with them at last; but lection. And perhaps nothing could make it worth I have reason to think they can have no reputation my while to own what are really so, but to avoid the which will continue long, or which deserves to do imputation of so many dull and immoral things as, 80; for they have always fallen short, not only of partly by malice, and partly by ignorance, have been what I read of others, but even of my own ideas of ascribed to me. I must further acquit myself of the poetry.
presumption of having lent my name to recommend If any one should imagine I am not in earnest, I any miscellanies or works of other men; a thing I desire him to reflect, that the Ancients (to say the never thought becoming a person who has hardly least of them) had as much genius as we; and that to credit enough to answer for his own. take more pains, and employ more time, cannot fail In this office of collecting my pieces, I am alto. to produce more complete pieces. They constantly gether uncertain whether to look upon myself as a applied themselves not only to that art, but to that man building a monument, or burying the dead. single branch of an art to which their talent was most If time shall make it the former, may these poems, powerfully bent; and it was the business of their lives as long as they last, remain as a testimony that their to correct and finish their works for posterity. If we author never made his talents subservient to the mean can pretend to have used the same industry, let us and unworthy ends of party or self-interest; the expect the same immortality; though, if we took the gratification of public prejudices or private passions ; same care, we should still lie under a further mis- the lattery of the undeserving, or the insult of the fortune; they writ in languages that became univer- unfortunate. If I have written well, let it be considersal and everlasting, while ours are extremely limited ed, that it is what no man can do without good sense, both in extent and in duration. A mighty foundation a quality that not only renders one capable of being for our pride! when the utmost we can hope is but a good writer, but a good man. And if I have made to be read in one island, and to be thrown aside at any acquisition in the opinion of any one under the the end of one age.
notion of the former, let it be continued to me under All that is left us is to recommend our productions no other title than that of the latter. by the imitation of the Ancients: and it will be found But if this publication be only a more solemn funetrue, that, in every age, the highest character for sense ral of my remains, I desire it may be known that I and learning bas been obtained by those who have die in charity, and in my senses; without any murmurs been most indebted to them. For, to say truth, against the justice of this age, or any mad appeals to whatever is very good sense, must have been com- posterity. I declare, I shall think the world in the mon sense in all times; and what we call Learning, right, and quietly submit to every truth which time