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nest Man *. A Man, who alone poffeffed more real virtue than, in very corrupt times, needing a Satirist like him, will fometimes fall to the share of multitudes. In this history of his life t, will be contained a large account of his writings ; a critique on the nature, force, and extent of his genius, exemplified from these writings; and a vindication of his moral character exemplified by his more distinguished virtues ; his filial piety, his difinterested friendships, his reverence for the constitution of his country, his love and admiration of VIRTUE, and (what was the neceffary effect) his hatred and contempt of vice, his extensive charity to the indigent, his warm benevolence to mankind, his fupreme veneration of the Deity, and, above all, his fincere belief of Revelation. Nor shall his faults be concealed. It is not for the interests of his Virtues that they should. Nor indeed could they be concealed if we were so minded, for they shine thro' his Virtues ; no man being more a dupe to the specious appearances of Virtue in others. In a * A wit's a feather, and a chief's a rod,
« An honest Man's the noblest work of God. + It will be printed in the same form with this and every future edition of his works, so as to make a
part of them.
word I mean not to be his Panegyrist, but his Historian. And may I, when Envy and Calumny take the same advantage of my absence (for, while I live, I will freely trust it to my Life to confute them) may I find a Friend as careful of my honest fame as I have been of His ! Together with his Works, he hath bequeathed mę his Dunces. So that as the property is transferred, I could wish they would now let his memory alone. The veil which Death draws over the Good is fo sacred, that to throw dirt upon the Shrine scandalizes even Barbarians. And though Rome permitted her Slaves to calumniate her best Citizens on the day of Triumph, yet the same petulancy at their Funeral would have been rewarded with execration and a gibbet.
N. B. This Edition of Mr. Pope's Works
is printed verbatim from the large Octavo; with all bis Notes, and a sele?? number of the Editor's.
E R Ř A T A.
Page 38. In the quotation from Virgil, 1. 1. for manida
scula, r. munuscula.
PREF A CE.
AM inclined to think that both the writers of
books, and the readers of them, are generally not a little unreasonable in their expectations. The firft seem to fancy that the world must approve whata ever they produce, and the latter to imagine that authors are obliged to please them at any rate. Methinks, as on the one hand, no single man is born with a right of controuling the opinions of all the rest; so on the other, the world has no' title to demand, that the whole care and time of any particular person should be facrificed to its entertainment. Therefore I cannot but believe that writers and readers are under equal obligations, for as much fame, or pleasure, as each affords the other.
Every one acknowledges, it would be a wild notion to expect perfection in any work of man: and yet one would think the contrary was taken for granted, by the judgment commonly past upon Poems. A Critic fupposes he has done his part, if he proves a writer to have failed in an expression, or erred in any particular point: and can it then be wondered at, if the Poets in general seem resolved not to own themselves in any error ? For as long as one side will make no allowances, the other will be brought to no acknowledgments *
* In the former editions it was thus For as long as one fide despises a well meant endeavour, the other will not be satisfied with a moderate approbation. -- But the author altered it, as these words were rather a consequence from the conclufion he would draw, than the conclufion itself, which he has now inserted.
I am afraid this extreme zeal on both sides is illplaced ; Poetry and Criticism being by no means the universal concern of the world, but only the affair of idle men who write in their closets, and of idle men who read there.
Yet sure upon the whole, a bad Author deserves better usage than a bad Critic: for a Writer's endeavour, for the most part, is to please his Readers, and he fails merely through the misfortune of an ill judgment; but such a Critic's is to put them out of humor; a design he could never go upon without both that and an ill temper.
I think a good deal may be said to extenuate the fault of bad poets. What we call a Genius, is hard to be distinguished by a man himself, from a strong inclination : and if his genius be ever so great, he cannot at first discover it any other way, than by giving way to that prevalent propensity which rera ders him the more liable to be mistaken. The only method he has, is to make the experiment by.writing, and appealing to the judgment of others : now if he happens to write ill (which is certainly no fin in itself) he is immediately made an object of ridicule. I wish we had the humanity to reflect that even the worst authors might, in their endeavour to please us, deserve something at our hands. We have no cause to quarrel with them but for their obftinacy in persisting to write; and this too may admit of alleviating circumstances. Their particular friends may be either ignorant, or infincere ; and the rest of the world in general is too well bred to fhock them with a truth, which generally their Book sellers are the first that inform them of. This happens not till they have spent too much of their time, to apply to any profeffion which might better fit their talents; and till such talents as they have are so far discredited as to be but of small service to them. For (what is the hardest case imaginable)