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PROLOGUE TO MR. ADDISON’S TRAGEDY OF CATO.
[The tragedy of Cato was brought on the stage in April, 1713. In a letter to Sir William Trumbull, dated the 30th of April, Pope describes the remarkable success of Addison's drama and of his own Prologue to it. “Cato," he says, “was not so much the wonder of Rome in his days as he is of Britain in ours; and though all the foolish industry possible has been used to make it thought a party play, yet what the author once said of another may, the most properly in the world, be applied to him on this occasion :
Envy itself is dumb, in wonder lost,
And factions strive who shall applaud him most. The numerous and violent claps of the Whig party on the one side of the theatre were echoed back by the Tories on the other; whilst the author sweated behind the scenes with concern to find their applause proceeding more from the hand than the head. This was the case too of the prologue writer, who was clapped into a staunch Whig at almost every two lines. I believe you have heard that after all the applauses of the opposite faction, my Lord Bolingbroke sent for Booth, who played Cato, into the box, between one of the acts, and presented him with fifty guineas, in acknowledgment, as he expressed it, 'for defending the cause of liberty so well against a perpetual Dictator.'” This allusion of Bolingbroke's to the "perpetual Dictator directed against Marlborough, who had endeavoured, it was said, before the fall of the Whig party in 1711, to obtain a patent appointing him Captain. General for life.] To wake the soul by tender strokes of art,
To raise the genius, and to mend the heart,
10 In pitying love, we but our weakness show, And wild ambition well deserves its woe. Here tears shall flow from a more generous cause, Such tears as patriots shed for dying laws : He bids your breasts with ancient ardour rise, And calls forth Roman drops from British eyes.
Virtue confess’d in human shape he draws,
Britons, attend :2 be worth like this approved,
1 [Taken from a noble passage in Seneca, which Addison prefixed as a motto to his tragedy. “Ecce spectaculum dignum ad quod respiciat, intentus operi suo, Deus! Ecce par Deo dignum, vir fortis cum malâ fortunâ compositus! Non video, inquam, quid habeat in terris Jupiter pulchrius, si con: vertere animum velit, quàm ut spectet CATONEM, jam partibus non semel fractis, nihilominùs inter ruinas publicas erectum." “Behold a spectacle worthy the regard of a God intent upon his own work-a brave man assailed by misfortune! I do not see what Jupiter has more noble upon the earth, if he should turn his mind to it, than to behold Cato, after his party has been more than once shattered, standing erect amidst the ruins of his country."]
2 (Pope had originally written, “Britons, arise !” but Addiscn's timidity or wish to avoid all possible political misconstruction, suggested the alteration.]
AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR MDCCIX.
[First published in 1711. It is advertised in the Spectator, May 15, of that year. Pope did not affix his name to the poem; but to excite an interest in it, and to help forward the sale, he distributed twenty copies as presents among the most eminent persons of the day, including Lord Lansdowne and the Duke of Buckingham. The scheme was successful. The Essay became the subject of conversation, and rose into popularity. Writing to Craggs, about two months after its publication, Pope said, "I will recant, and alter what you please, in case of a second edition, which I think the book will not soon arrive at, for Tonson's printer told me he threw off a thousand copies in his first impression, and I fancy a treatise of this nature, which not one gentleman in threescore, even of a liberal education, can understand, can hardly exceed the vent of that number.” The thousand copies appear to have been sold in a year and a half, as a second edition is advertised in the Spectator, November 29, 1712. Three editions were disposed of, and a fourth published within two years. The extent of reading and observation displayed in the Essay, and the sound critical judgment and taste evinced by the author, certainly render it the most remarkable work in our literature, produced at the age of twenty-one.]
INTRODUCTION.- That 'tis as great a fault to judge ill, as to write ill, and a more dangerous one to the public, ver. 1.–That a true Taste is as rare to be found, as a true Genius, ver. 9 to 18.—That most men are born with some Taste, but spoiled by false Education, ver. 19 to 25.-The multitude of Critics, and causes of them, ver. 26 to 45.—That we are to study our own Taste, and know the Limits of it, ver. 46 to 67.-Nature the best guide of judgment, ver. 68 to 87.-Improved by Art and Rules, which are but methodized Nature, ver. 88.-Rules derived from the practice of the Ancient Poets, ver. 88 to 110.---That therefore the Ancients are necessary to be studied by a Critic, particularly Homer and Virgil, ver. 120 to 138.–Of Licenses, and the use of them by the Ancients, ver. 140 to 180.-Reverence due to the Ancients, and praise of them, ver. 181, &c.
PART II.: Ver. 203, &c. Causes hindering a true Judgment.-1. Pride, .ver. 208.-2. Imperfect Learning, ver. 215.-3. Judging by parts, and not by the whole, ver. 233 to 288.-Critics in Wit, Language, Versification, only, ver. 288, 305, 339, &c.4. Being too hard to please, or too apt to admire, ver. 384.-5. Partiality: too much love to a Sect, to the Ancients or Moderns, ver. 394.-6. Prejudice or Prevention, ver. 408.-7. Singularity, ver. 424.-8. Inconstancy, ver. 430.9. Party Spirit, ver. 452, &c.—10. Envy, ver. 466.-Against Envy, and in praise of Good-nature, ver. 508, &c.—When Severity is chiefly to be used by Critics, ver. 526, &c.
PART III.: Ver. 560, &c. Rules for the Conduct of Manners in a Critic.-1. Candour, ver. 563.Modesty, ver. 566.--Good-breeding, ver. 572.-Sincerity and Freedom of Advice, ver. 578.-2. When one's Counsel is to be restrained, ver. 584.Character of an incorrigible Poet, ver. 600.-And of an impertinent Critic, ver. 610, &c.-Character of a good Critic, ver. 629.-The History of Criti. cism, and Characters of the best Critics : Aristotle, ver. 645.--Horace, ver. 653.—Dionysius, ver. 665.-Petronius, ver. 667.—Quintilian, ver. 670.Longinus, ver. 675.-Of the Decay of Criticism, and its Revival: Erasmus, ver. 693.-Vida, ver. 705.—Boileau, ver. 714.-Lord Roscommon, &c., ver. 725.-Conclusion.
AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM.
'TIS hard to say, if greater want of skill
Appear in writing or in judging ill;
'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none
Yet, if we look more closely, we shall find
1 “Qui scribit artificiose, ab aliis commode scripta facile intelligere poterit." -Cic. ad Heren. lib. iv. “De pictore, sculptore, fictore, nisi artifex, judicare non potest.”-Pliny.
2“ Omnes tacito quodam sensu, sine ullâ arte, aut ratione, quæ sint in artibus ac rationibus recta et prava disjudicant.”-Cic. de Orat. lib. iii.
3 “ Plus sine doctrinâ prudentia, quam sine prudentiâ valet doctrina."Quint. Between ver. 25 and 26 were these lines, since omitted by the author:
“Many are spoil'd by that pedantic throng
Who with great pains teach youth to reason wrong.