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To failings mild, but zealous for defert;
the Athalia, for inftance, is preferable to Lear, the notion is groundless and abfurd. Though the Henriade should be allowed to be free from any very grofs abfurdities, yet who will dare to rank it with the Paradife Loft? Some of their most perfect tragedies abound in faults as contrary to the nature of that fpecies of poetry, and as deftructive to its end, as the fools or grave-diggers of Shakespeare. That the French may boast some excellent critics, particularly Boffu, Boileau, Fenelon, and Brumoy, cannot be denied; but that these are fufficient to form a tafte upon, without having recourse to the genuine fountains of all polite literature, I mean the Grecian writers, no one but a fuperficial reader can allow.
VER. 741. Careless of cenfure,] Thefe concluding lines bear a great resemblance to Boileau's conclufion of his Art of Poetry, but are perhaps fuperior.
"Cenfeur un peu facheux, mais fouvent neceffaire ;
Our author has not, in this piece, followed the examples of the ancients, in addrefling their didactic poems to fome particular perfon; as Hefiod to Perfes; Lucretius to Memmius; Virgil to Mecænas; Horace to the Pifos; Ovid, his Fafti, to Germanicus; Oppian to Caracalla. In later times, Fracaftorius addreft P. Bembo; Vida the Dauphin of France. But
Averse alike to flatter, or offend;
Not free from faults, nor yet too vain to mend.
neither Boileau in his Art, nor Rofcommon nor Buckingham in their Effays, nor Akenfide nor Armstrong, have followed this practice.
I conclude thefe remarks with a remarkable fact. In no polifhed nation, after criticifm has been much ftudied, and the rules of writing established, has any very extraordinary work appeared. This has vifibly been the cafe in Greece, in Rome, and in France; after Ariftotle, Horace, and Boileau, had written their Arts of Poetry. In our own country the rules of the drama, for instance, were never more completely understood than at prefent; yet what uninterefting, though faultless, tragedies, have we lately feen? So much better is our judgement than our execution. How to account for the fact here mentioned, adequately and juftly, would be attended with all those difficulties that await difcuffions relative to the productions of the human mind; and to the delicate and secret causes that influence them. Whether or no, the natural powers be not confined and debilitated by that timidity and caution which is occafioned by a rigid regard to the dictates of art; or whether that philofophical, that geometrical, and fyftematical spirit fo much in vogue, which has spread itself from the sciences even into polite literature, by confulting only reason, has not diminished and deftroyed fentiment; and made our poets write from and to the head, rather than the heart; or whether, laftly, when juft models, from which the rules have neceffarily been drawn, have once appeared, fucceeding writers, by vainly and ambitiously striving to furpass thofe juft models, and to fhine and surprise, do not become stiff, and forced and affected, in their thoughts and diction.
I am happy to find these opinions confirmed by the learned and judicious Heyne, in his Opufcula, p. 116.
"Et initio quidem ipfa ingenii humani doctrinæque humanæ natura haud facile alium rerum curfum admittit, quam ut doctrinæ auctus ingenii damna fequantur; infringitur ipfa rerum copia ingenii vis ac vigor; fubtilitas grammatica, historica ac philofophica, in rebus exquirendis ac diluendis, magnos et audaces animi sensus incidit; luxuriantius ingenium a fimplicitate ad cultum et
ornatum, hinc ad fucum et lafciviam prolabitur. Eft idem animorum et ingeniorum, qui vitæ et reipublicæ, ab aufteritate ad elegantiam, ab hac ad luxum et delicias, progreffus; quo gradu uti femel rerum vices conftitere, ad interitum eas vergere neceffe eft."
It is not improper to obferve what great improvements the Art of Criticism has received fince this Effay was written. For without recurring to pieces of earlier date, and nearer the time in which it was written; the effays in the Spectator and Guardian; Shaftesbury's Advice to an Author; Spence on the Odyffey; Fenton on Waller; Blackwell's Enquiry into the Life and Writings of Homer: even of late years, we have had the Treatifes of Harris; Hurd's Remarks on Horace; Obfervations on the Fairy Queen; Webb on Poetry and Mufic; Brown's Differtation on the fame; the Differtations of Beattie; the Elements of Criticifm, of Kaims; the Lectures of Blair; the Editions of Milton, by Newton and Warton; and of Shakespeare and Spenfer, by Malone, Steevens, and Upton; the Hiftory of English Poetry; the critical papers of the Rambler, Adventurer, World, and Connoiffeur; and The Lives of the Poets, by Johnson; the Biographia Britannica; and the Poetics of Ariftotle, tranflated, aud accompanied with judicious notes, by Twining and Pye; and the tranflation, with notes, of Horace's Art of Poetry, by Hurd and Colman; and the Epiftles of Hayley.