Abbildungen der Seite

world; and people will establish their opinion of us, from what we do at that season when we have least judgment to direct us.

On the other hand, a good Poet no sooner communicates his works with the fame desire of information, but it is imagined he is a vain young creature given up to the ambition of fame; when perhaps the poor man is all the while trembling with the fear of being ridiculous. If he is made to hope he may please the world, he falls under very unlucky circumstances : for, from the moment he prints, he must expect to hear no more truth, than if he were a Prince, or a Beauty. If he has not very good fenfe (and indeed there are twenty men of wit for one man of sense) his living thus in a course of flattery may put him in no small danger of becoming a Coxcomb: if he has, he will consequently have so much diffidence as not to reap any great fatisfaction from his praise; since, if it be given to his face, it can scarce be distinguished from flattery, and if in his absence, it is hard to be certain of it. Were he sure to be commended by the best and most knowing, he is as sure of being envied by the worst and most ignorant, which are the majority; for it is with a fine Genius as with a fine fashion, all those are displeased at it who are not able to follow it: and it is to be feared that esteem will feldom do any man so much good, as ill-will does him harm. Then there is a third class of people, who make the largest part of mankind, those of ordinary or indifferent capacities; and these (to a man) will hate, or suspect him: a hundred honest Gentlemen will dread him as a Wit, and a hundred innocent women as a Satirist. In a word, whatever be his fate in Poetry, it is ten to one but he must give up all the reasonable aims of life for it. There are indeed some advantages accruing from a Genius to Poetry, and they are all I can think of: the agreeable power of self-amusement when a man is idle or alone; the privilege of being admitted into the best company; and the freedom of saying as many careless things as other people, without being so severely remarked upon. .


I believe, if any one, early in his life, should contemplate the dangerous fate of authors *, he would scarce be of their number on any consideration. The life of a Wit is a warfare upon earth; and the present spirit of the learned world is such, that to attempt to serve it (any way) one must have the constancy of a martyr, and a resolution to suffer for its sake. I could wish people would believe, what I am pretty certain they will not, that I have been much less concerned about Fame than I durst declare till this occasion, when methinks I should find more credit than I could heretofore: since my writings

* This fate and these dangers have been the subject of an ingenious epistle by the amiable Mr. Whitehead, The Danger of writing Verfe; one of the happiest imitations of our Author's didactic manner; in which are many particulars suggested or borrowed from this preface.


B 3

have had their fate already, and it is too late to think of prepossessing the reader in their favour. I would plead it as some merit in me, that the world has never been prepared for these Trifles by Prefaces *, byaffed by recommendation, dazzled with the names of great Patrons, wheedled with fine reasons and pretences, or troubled with excuses.

I confess it was want of consideration that made me an author; I writ because it amused me; I corrected because it was as pleasant to me to correct as to write; and I published because I was told, I might please such as it was a credit to please. To what degree I have done this, I am really ignorant ; I had too much fondness for my productions to judge of them at first, and too much judgment to be pleased with them at last. But I have reason to think they can have no reputation which will continue long, or which deserves to do lo: for they have always fallen short + not only of what I read of others, but even of my own ideas of Poetry.

If any one should imagine I am not in earnest, I defire him to reflect, that the Ancients (to say the

* As was the practice of his master Dryden, who is severely lashed for this in the Tale of a Tub, and of as great a Genius P. Corneille, whose pieces of base adulation are a disgrace to Poetry and Literature. Our Author was accustomed to mention Locke's dedication to Lord Pembroke with strong marks of disapprobation.

+ Il n'y a presque aucun de mes ouvrages dont je fois content, & il y en a quelques uns que je voudrais n'avoir jamais faits, says Voltaire.


least of them) had as much Genius as we: and that to take more pains, and employ more time, cannot fail to produce more complete pieces. They constantly apply'd themselves not only to that art, but to that single branch of an art, to which their talent was most powerfully bent; and it was the business of their lives to correct and finish their works for posterity. If we can pretend to have used the same industry, let us expect the same immortality: Tho’ if we took the fame care, we should still lie under a further misfortune: they writ in languages that became universal and everlasting, while ours are extremely limited both in extent and in duration. A mighty foundation for our pride! when the utmost we can hope, is but to be read in one Island, and to be thrown aside at the end of one Age.

All that is left us * is to recommend our productions by the imitation of the Ancients: and it will be found


* I have frequently heard Dr. Young speak with great disapprobation of the doctrine contained in this paffage; with a view to which he wrote his discourse on Original Composition : in which he says, “ Would not Pope have succeeded better in an original attempt? Talents untried are talents unknown. All that I know, is, that, contrary to these sentiments, he was not only an avowed professor of imitation, but a zealous recommender of it also. Nor could he recommend any thing better, except emulation, to those who write. One of these, all writers must call to their aid ; but aids they are of unequal repute. Imitation is inferiority confessed; emulation is superiority contested or denied ; imitation is servile, emulation generous; that fetters, this fires; that may give a name ; this, a name immortal. This made Atheng to succeeding ages the rule of taste, and the standard that

true, that in every age, the highest character for sense and learning has been obtained by those who have been most indebted to them. For, to say truth, whatever is very good sense, must have been common sense in all times; and what we call learning, is but the knowledge of the sense of our predecessors. Therefore they who say our thoughts are not our own, because they resemble the Ancients, may as well say our faces are not our own, because they are like our Fathers: And indeed it is very unreasonable,

of perfection. Her men of genius struck fire against each other ; and kindled, by conflict, into glories, which no time shall extinguish. We thank Eschylus for Sophocles, and Parrhafius for Zeuxis ; Emulation for both. That bids us fly the general fault of imitators; bids us not be struck with the loud report

of former fame, as with a knell, which damps the spirits; but, as with a trumpet, which inspires ardour to rival the renowned. Emulation exhorts us, instead of learning our discipline for ever, like raw troops, under ancient leaders in composition, to put those laureld veterans in some hazard of losing their superior pofts in glory. Such is Emulation's high-spirited advice, such her immortalizing call. Pope would not hear, pre-engaged with imitation, which blessed him with all her charms. He chose rather, with his namesake of Greece, to triumph in the old world, than to look out for a new. His talte partook the error of his religion: it denied not worship to faints and angels ; that is, to writers, who, canonized for ages, have received their apotheofis from established and universal fame.” It might, perhaps, have been replied to Young; you, indeed, have given us a considerable number of original thoughts in your works, but they would have been more chaite and correct if you had imitated the ancients more. There are entertaining dissertations on plagiarism and borrowing in Le Mottlie le Vayer, tom. ii. 344.

The opinion of Longinus deserves our attention. 'Eşi des κλοπή το πράγμα, αλλ', ως από καλών ηθών, ή πλασμάτων, ή Onuyu twv Tolówek. Sect. 13. p. 88. edit. Pearce. Of this opinion also were Addison and Boileau,

« ZurückWeiter »