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that people should expect us to be Scholars, and yet be angry to find us fo.
I fairly confefs that I have ferved myself all I could by reading; that I made ufe of the judgment of authors dead and living; that I omitted no means in my power to be informed of my errors, both by my friends and enemies: But the true reason these pieces are not more correct, is owing to the confideration how fhort a time they, and I, have to live: One may be afhamed to confume half one's days in bringing fenfe and rhyme together; and what Critic can be fo unreasonable, as not to leave a man time enough for any more ferious employment, or more agreeable amusement?
The only plea I fhall ufe for the favour of the public, is, that I have as great a respect for it, as most authors have for themselves; and that I have facrificed much of my own felf-love for its fake, in preventing not only many mean things from feeing the light, but many which I thought tolerable. I would not be like those Authors, who forgive themselves fome particular lines for the fake of a whole Poem, and vice verfa a whole Poem for the fake of fome particular lines. I believe no one qualification is fo likely to make a good writer, as the power of rejecting his own thoughts; and it must be this (if any thing) that can give me a chance to be one. For what I have published, I can only hope to be pardoned; but for what I have burn'd, I
deferve to be prais'd. On this account the world is under fome obligation to me, and owes me the juftice in return, to look upon no verfes as mine that are not inferted in this collection. And perhaps nothing could make it worth my while to own what are really fo, but to avoid the imputation of fo many dull and immoral things, as partly by malice, and partly by ignorance, have been ascribed to me. I must further acquit myfelf of the prefumption of having lent my name to recommend any Miscellanies, or Works of other men; a thing I never thought becoming a Perfon who has hardly credit enough to anfwer for his own.
In this office of collecting my pieces,, I am altogether uncertain, whether to look upon myself as a man building a monument, or burying the dead.
If Time fhall make it the former, may these Poems (as long as they laft) remain as a teftimony, that their Author never made his talents fubfervient to the mean and unworthy ends of Party or Self-intereft; the gratification of public prejudices, or private paffions; the flattery of the undeferving, or the infult of the unfortunate. If I have written well, let it be confidered that 'tis what no man can do without good fenfe, a quality that not only renders one capable of being a good writer, but a good man. And if I have made any acquifition in the opinion of any one under the notion of the former,
let it be continued to me under no other title than that of the latter.
But if this publication be only a more folemn funeral of my remains, I defire it may be known that I die in charity, and in my fenfes; without any murmurs against the juftice of this age, or any mad appeals to pofterity. I declare I fhall think the world in the right, and quietly fubmit to every truth which time fhall difcover to the prejudice of these writings; not fo much as wifhing fo irrational a thing, as that every body fhould be deceived merely for my credit. However, I defire it may then be confidered, That there are very few things in this collection which were not written under the age of five and twenty: fo that my youth may be made (as it never fails to be in Executions) a cafe of compaffion. That I was never fo concerned about my works as to vindicate them in print, believing, if any thing was good, it would defend itself, and what was bad could never be defended. That I ufed no artifice to raife or continue a reputation, depreciated no dead author I was obliged to, ribed no living one with unjust praise, insulted no adversary with ill language; or, when I could not attack a Rival's works, encouraged reports against his Morals. To conclude, if this volume perish, let it ferve as a warning to the
This was written in 1716; did our Author recollect this fentiment in 1729?
Critics, not to take too much pains for the future to destroy such things as will die of themselves; and a Memento mori to fome of my vain contemporaries the Poets, to teach them that, when real merit is wanting, it avails nothing to have been encouraged by the great, commended by the eminent, and favoured by the public in general *. Nov. 10, 1716.
Variations in the Author's Manuscript Preface.
A FTER P. 5. I. 13. it followed thus-For my part, I confess, had I feen things in this view at first, the public had never been troubled either with my writings, or with this apology for them. I am fenfible how difficult it is to speak of one's felf with decency: but when a man must speak of himself, the best way is to speak truth of himself, or, he may depend upon it, others will do it for him. I'll therefore make this Preface a general confeffion of all my thoughts of my own Poetry, refolving with the fame freedom to expofe myself, as it is in the power of any other to expofe them. In the first place, I thank God and nature, that I
* I cannot forbear adding how excellently well written is Cowley's preface to his works, folio, 1656; and how much fuperior it is to Sprat's Life of that amiable author. Both Cowley and Spenfer wrote profe excellently.
Johnfon was angry at this abbreviation for I will.
was born with a love to poetry; for nothing more conduces to fill up all the intervals of our time, or, if rightly used, to make the whole courfe of life entertaining: Cantantes licet ufque (minus via laedet.) 'Tis a vaft happiness to poffefs the pleasures of the head, the only pleasures in which a man is fufficient to himself, and the only part of him which, to his fatisfaction, he can employ all day long. The Muses are amicae omnium horarum; and, like our gay acquaintance, the best company in the world as long as one expects no real fervice from them. I confefs there was a time when I was in love with myself, and my first productions were the children of felf-love upon innocence. I had made an Epic Poem, and Panegyrics on all the Princes in Europe, and thought myfelf the greatest genius that ever was. I can't but regret those delightful vifions of my childhood, which, like the fine colours we fee when our eyes are fhut, are vanished for ever. Many trials and fad experience have fo undeceived me by degrees, that I am utterly at a lofs at what rate to value myself. As for fame, I fhall be glad of any I can get, and not repine at any I mifs; and as for vanity, I have enough to keep me from hanging myfelf, or even from wifhing those
But at the conclufion of his translation of the Iliad, he contradicts this fentiment, by applying to himself a paffage of M. Antoninus.
↑ Johnson thought "in the world" a vulgarism, and always avoided the expreflion.