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" Horace avec BOILEAU ; . « Vous


cherchiez le vrai, vous y goutiez le beau ; “ Quelques traits échappés d'une utile morale, “ Dans leurs piquans écrits brillent intervale. Mais Pope approfondit ce q'ils ont effleuré ; D'un esprit plus hardi, d'un pas plus assuré, “ Il porta le flambeau dans l'abîme de l'Etre, “ Et l'homme avec lui seul apprit à se connoitre. “ L'art quelquefois frivole et quelquefois divin, “ L'art des vers est dans Pope UTILE AU GENRE " HUMAIN.”

VOLTAIRE, au Roi de Pruffe.

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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 first seem to fancy that the world must approve of whatever 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 controling the opinions of all the rest; fo 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 inuch 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 passed upon Poems. A Critic supposes 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 *

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In the former editions it was thus" For as long " as one fide despises a well-meant endeavour, the other 's will not be satisfied with a moderate approbation.”


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 humour; 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 renders 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 obstinacy in persisting to write ; and this too may

But the Author altered it, as these words were rather a consequence from the conclusion he would draw, than the conclusion itself, which he has now inserted.

admit of alleviating circumstances. Their particular friends may be either ignorant, or insincere; and the rest of the world in general is too well-bred to shock them with a truth, which generally their Bookfellers are the first that inform them of. This happens not till they have spent too much of their time, to apply to any profession 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) the reputation of a man generally depends upon the first steps he makes in the world; and people will establish their opinion of us, from what we do at that season, when we have least judgment to direct


On the other hand, a good Poet no sooner communicates his works with the same defire 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 sense (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 ab


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