« ZurückWeiter »
has that said of them? A very serious truth, which the public had said before, that they were dull: And what it had no sooner said, but they themselves were at great pains to procure, or even purchase room in the prints to testify under their hands to the truth of it.
I should still have been filent, if either I had seen any inclination in my friend to be serious with such accusers, or if they had only meddled with his Writings; since whoever publishes, puts himself on his trial by his Country. But when his moral character was attacked, and in a manner from which neither truth nor virtue can secure the most innocent; in a manner which though it annihilates the credit of the accusation with the just and impartial, yet aggravates very much the guilt of the accusers; I mean by Authors without names; then I thought, lince the danger was common to all, the concern ought to be so; and that act of justice to detect the Authors, not only on this account, but as many of them are the same, who, for several years past, have made free with the greatest names in Church and State, exposed to the world the private misfortunes of Families, abused all, even to women, and whose prostituted papers (for one or other Party, in the unhappy divisions of their Country) have infulted the Fallen, the Friendless, the Exild, and the Dead.
Besides this, which I take to be a public concern, I have already confessed I had a private one. I am one of that number who have long loved and esteemed Mr Pope; and had often declared it was not his capacity or writings (which we ever thought the least valuable part of his character) but the boreft, open,
and beneficent man, that we most esteemed, and loved in bim. Now, if what these people say were believed, I must appear to all my friends either a fool, or a knave; either imposed on myself, or imposing on them ; so that I am as much interested in the confutation of these calumnies, as he is himself.
I am no Author, and consequently not to be suspected either of jealoufy or resentment against any of the Men, of whom scarce one is known to me by light; and as for their Writings, I have fought them (on this one occasion) in vain, in the closets and libraries of all my acquaintance. I had ftill been in the dark, if a Gentlemen had not procured me (I suppose from some of themselves, for they are generally much more dangerous friends than enemies) the passages I send you. I solemnly proteft I have added nothing to the malice or absurdity of them; which it behoves me to declare, since the vouchers themselves will be so soon and so irrecoverably loft You may in some measure prevent it, by preserving at least their Titles a, and discovering (as far as you can depend on the truth of your inform• ation) the Names of the concealed authors.
The first objection I have heard made to the Poem is, that the perfons are too obscure for fatire. The persons themselves, rather than allow the objection, would forgive the fatire; and if one could be tempted to afford it a serious answer, were not all assassinates, popular insurrections, the insolence of the rabble without doors, and of domestics within, most wrongfully chastised, if the Meanness of offenders indemnified them
Which we have done in a Lift printed in the Appendix.
from punishment? On the contrary, Obscurity renders them more dangerous, , as less thought of: Law can pronounce judgment only on open faets: Morality alone can pass censure on intentions of Mischief; so that for secret calumny, or the arrow flying in the dark, there is no public punishment left, but what a good Writer inflicts.
The next objection is, that these fort of authors are poor. That might be pleaded as an excuse at the Old Baily for lesser crimes than Defamation, (for 'tis the case of almost all who are tried there); but sure it can be none here: For who will pretend that the robbing another of his reputation supplies the want of it in himfelf? I question not but such authors are poor, and heartily wilh the objection were removed by any honest livelihood. But Poverty is here the accident, not the subject: He who describes Malice and Villany to be pale and meagre, expresses not the least anger against Paleness and Leanness, but against Malice and Villany, The Apothecary in Romeo and Juliet is poor; but is he therefore justified in vending poison? Not but Poverty itself becomes a just subject of satire, when it is the consequence of vice, prodigality, or neglect of one's jawful calling; for then it increases the public burden, fills the streets and highways with Robbers, and the Garrets with Clippers, Coiners, and Weekly Jounalists.
But admitting that two or three of these offend less in their morals, than in their writings; must Poverty
make nonsense sacred ? if so, the fame of bad authors !! would be much better consulted than that of all the
good ones in the world; and not one of an hundred had ever been called by his right name.
They mistake the whole matter : It is not charity to encourage them in the way they follow, but to get them out of its for men are not bunglers because they are poor, but they are poor because they are bunglers.
Is it not pleasant enough, to hear our authors crying out on the one hand, as if their persons and characters were too sacred for satire; and the public objecting on the other, that they are too mean even for ridicule? But whether Bread or Fame be their end, it must be allowed, our author, by and in this Poem, has mercifully given them a little of both.
There are two or three, who by their rank and fortune have no benefit from the former objections, fupposing them good, and these I was sorry to see in such company. But if, without any provocation, two or three Gentlemen will fall upon one, in an affair wherein his interest and reputation are equally embarked; they cannot certainly, after they have been content to print themselves his enemies, complain of being put into the number of them.
Others, I am told, pretend to have been once bis Friends. Surely they are their enemies who say so, fince nothing can be more odious than to treat a friend as they have done. But of this I cannot persuade mye self, when I consider the constant and eternal aversion of all bad writers to a good one.
Such as claim a merit from being his Admirers, I would gladly ask, if it lays him under a personal ob. ligation! At that rate, he would be the most obliged
humble servant in the world. I dare swear for these in particular, he never desired them to be his admirers, nor promised in return to be theirs : That had truly been a sign he was of their acquaintance; but would not the malicious world have suspected such an Approbation of some motive worse than ignorance, in the author of the Essay on Criticism? Be it as it will, the reafons of their Admiration and of his Contempt are equal ly sublisting; for his works and theirs are the very fame that they were.
One, therefore, of their assertions I believe may be true, “ That he has a contempt for their writings.” And there is a another, which would probably be sooner allowed by himself than by any good judge, belide, “ That his own have found too much success “ with the public." But as it cannot confist with his modesty to claim this as a Justice, it lies not on him, but entirely on the public, to defend its own judg. ment.
There remains what in my opinion might seem & better plea for these people, than any they have made use of. If Obscurity or Poverty were to exempt a man from fatire, much more should Folly or Dulness, which are still more involuntary ; nay, as much so as personal Deformity. But even this will not help them: Deformity becomes an object of Ridicule when a man lets up for being handsome; and so must Dulness when he sets up for a Wit. They are not ridiculed, because Ridicule in itself is, or ought to be, a pleasure ; but because it is just to undeceive and vindicate the ho