« ZurückWeiter »
- Veteres ita miratur ļaudątque poetas. Indignor quidquam reprehendi, non quia crasse Compositum, illepidéve putetur, sed quia nuper.
Their ancients lavishly they raise
Sir, I know the importance of an author to himself is so very great, that he looks upon it as absolutely necessary, that the public should be informed of every particular circumstance relating to his body or mind; as, for instance, at what hour he goes to bed, on which side he composed himself to sleep; whether his slumbers were interrupted, and, above all, the purport of his dreams, for dreams descend from Jove. This practice, I believe, is perfectly just; but I hope Mr. Ranger will not monopolise dreaming, and that he will give an occasional writer the liberty of communicating to the public how he passed the night. My hopes of succeeding in this request are the more sanguine, as the intellectual · scene, of which I mean here to give some account, was occasioned by a perusal of a vision of your own, in which
describe a Sacrifice to the Graces. The images which that piece excited in my fancy, incorporated, if I may so call it, with the ideas that have been uppermost in my
waking thoughts for some time past; and I imagined, in my sleep, that there was a general election in Parnassus, for proper members to represent the Republic of Letters. It seems, Apollo was induced, by frequent murmurs and complaints, to dissolve his parliament; some malcontents among the moderns being of opinion, that the ancients had arbitrarily voted themselves perpetual dictators of wit ; whereas, upon a free uninfluenced election, they believed themselves capable of returning a larger number than the said ancients. The party for the moderns was led on by Monsieur De la Motte, Perrault, and Wotton; the two former were vigorously opposed by Boileau and Madame Dacier, and the latter by Mr. Pope and Dr. Swift. Swift ordered a new edition of his Battle of the Books to be published forthwith, and Pope took occasion to reprint his Essays and Criticisms upon Homer. The old and new interest were the words by
which each party signified their attachments; and reams of lampoons, acrostics, and rebusses, were issued out by the moderns, which were all answered by epigrams, fables, and burlesque pieces, written by the friends of the ancients.
At length the writs were issued out to the proper officers to choose representatives for the several counties and borough-towns in Parnassus; some places, by poetic licence, having leave to return as many members as could fairly prove a qualification. Homer and Virgil were declared for epic poetry; Milton was set up by the encouragement of several friends, and they were all three accordingly chosen. Homer had four and twenty upon the poll, and Virgil twelve; Milton, by an assessment a little before the elec. tion, created two new votes, by which he also reached the number twelve, and Virgil was so modest, that he made no objection to it. Tasso and Sir Richard Blackmore were declared candidates, but the former was proved to have bribed with false ware and tinsel, and the latter could not make out a qualification.
In the regions of tragedy, Sophocles and Euripides joined interests, and Aristotle undertook to canvass for them; but Shakspeare carried it by a great majority: Corneille and Racire stood next upon the list, but a scrutiny was
demanded in favour of the old interest, upon a suspicion that several copy-holders had polled for the moderns, and the new interest employed some French critics to go through their answer ; it was thought it will at last end in a double return: and it was farther said, that Otway and Rowe would be declared duly elected. Dryden and Lee joined interests, and though many gay and flighty persons were very warm in their cause, their schemes were looked upon, by the cool and judicious, as rather too wild and romantic. The French critics threatened, that at some future election, they should be able to make more members, being resolved to put up Crebillon and Voltaire, even against Shakspeare, to which end several libels against the last-mentioned genius were already drawn up by Voltaire.
In the comic territories the ancients lost their election by a very great majority; Moliere, Ben Jonson, Congreve, and Vanbrugh, being declared duly elected. Shakspeare was
made an honorary member for this quarter, and was universally allowed to be a representative of both places. Dryden found means, by the assistance of a Spanish friar, to insinuate himself into this place; and it was given out, that when Colley Cibber arrives here, he will put up
as à person duly qualified, though it is
apprehended that his quarrel with Pope has deprived him of several votes.
The new interest exulted greatly upon their conquest in the last election, and, in order to complete their triumph, proceeded farther into thé regions of humour and ridicule. Homer was here again put up by Aristotle, who urged the Margites as a sufficient claim ; but, the writings of that estate being lost, he was obliged to decline the poll. After this, an advertisement was published, desiring all the votes and interest of all the true sons of merriment, for Aristophanes, Menander, Plautus, and Terence, who had just lost their election in another place; Lucian set up on his own interest. The moderns declared Cervantes, Rabelais, Swift, and Butler, joint candidates, being all gentlemen heartily attached to true wit and humour. Votes were also solicited for several other personages; Monsieur la Sage, Scarron, Marivaux, and Addison, were strongly recommended; but the latter being returned, in conjunction with Terence and La Sage, for the borough of Polite Mirth, Sir Richard Steele appeared on the hustings, and withdrew his friend's name. Swift mixed with the lower sort of people; joked with the women about their dressing-rooms, and re