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who, by an undisputed Title, are the King of Poets, what an Extent of Power you have, and how lawfully you may exercise it, over the petulent Scriblers of this Age. As Lord Chamberlain, I know, you are absolute by your Office, in all that belongs to the Decency and Good Manners of the Stage. You can banish from thence Scurrility and Profaneness, and restrain the licentious Insolence of Poets and their Actors in all things that shock the publick Quiet, or the Reputation of Private Persons, under the Notion of Humour. But I mean not the Authority, which is annex'd to your Office: I speak of that only which is inborn and inhe. rent to your Person. What is produc'd in you by an excellent Wit, a Mafterly and Commanding Genius over all Writers: Whereby you are impower'd, when you please, to give the final Decision of Wit; to put your Stamp on all that ought to pass for current; and fet a Brand of Reprobation on clipt Poetry, and false Coin. A Shilling dipt in the Bath may go for Gold amongft the Ignorant, but the Scepters on the Guineas shew the Difference. That your Lordship is form'd by Nature for this Supremacy, I could easily prove, (were it not already granted by the World) from the distinguishing Character of your Writing. Which is so visible to me that I never cou'd be impos'd on to receive for yours, what was written by any others; or to mistake
your Genuine Poetry, for their Spurious Productions. I can farther add with Truth (tho' not without some Vanity in saying it) that in the same Paper, written by divers Hands, whereof your Lordship’s was only part, I cou'd separate your Gold from their Copper: And tho I could not give back to every Author his own Brass, (for there is not the fame Rule for diftinguishing be. twixt bad and bad, as betwixt ill and excellently good)
I never fail'd of knowing what was yours, and what was not: And was absolutely certain, that this,
or the other Part, was positively yours, and cou'd not possibly be written by any other.
True it is, that some bad Poems, tho' not all, carry their Owners Marks about 'em. There is some peculiar Awkwardness, false Grammar, imperfect Sense, or, at the leaft, Obscurity ; fome Brand or other on this Buttock, or that Ear, that 'tis notorious who are the Owners of the Cattle, tho' they shou'd not sign it with their Names. But your Lordship, on the contrary, is diftinguish'd, not only by the Excellency of your Thoughts, but by your style and Manner of expressing them. A Painter judging of some admirable Piece, may affirm with Certainty, that it was of Holben, or Vandike : But Vulgar Designs, and Common Draughts, are easily miAtaken, and misapply'd. Thus, by my long Study of your Lordship, I am arriv'd at the Knowledge of your particular Manner. In the Good Poems of other Men, like those Artists, I can only say, this is like the Draught of such a one, or like the Colouring of another. In fort, I can only be sure, that 'tis the Hand of a good Mafter ; But in your Performances, 'cis scarcely poflible for me to be deceiv'd. If you write in your Strength, you stand reveal'd at the first View; and shou'd
write under it, you cannot avoid some peculiar Graces, which only cost me a second Confideration to discover you : For I may say it, with all the Severity of Truth, that every Line of yours is precious. Your Lordship's only Fault is, that you have not written more ; unless I cou'd add another, and that yet greater, but I fear for the Publick, the Accusation wou'd not be true, that you have written, and out of vicious Modesty will not publi.
Virgil has confin'd his works within the Compass of Eighteen Thousand Lines, and has not treated many Subjects; yet he ever had, and ever will have, the ReRutation of the best Poet. Martial lays of him, that
he could have excell'd Varius in Tragedy, and Horace in Lyrick Poetry, but out of Deference to his Friends, he attempted neither.
The same Prevalence of Genius is in Your Lordship, but the World cannot pardon your concealing it, on the fame Confideration; because we have neither a living Varius, nor a Herace, in whose Excellencies both of Poems, Odes, and Satyrs, you had equall'd them, if our Language had not yielded to the Roman Majesty, and length of Time had not added a Reverence to the Works of Horace. For good Sense is the same in all or moft Ages ; and course of Time rather improves Nature, than impairs her. What has been, may be again : Another Homer, and another Virgil, may poslibly*arise from those very Causes which produc'd the first : Tho'it wou' be Impudence to affirm that any such have appear’d.
'Tis manifest, that some particular Ages have been more happy than others in the Production of Great Men, in all sorts of Arts and Sciences : As that of Euripides, Sophocles, Aristophanes, and the rest for Stage Poetry amongst the Greeks: That of Augustus for Heroick, Lyrick, Dramatick, Elegiaque, and indeed all sorts of Poetry, in the Persons of Virgil, Horace, Varius, Ovid, and many others; especially if we take into that Century the latter end of the Common-wealth ; wherein we find Varro, Lucretius, and Catullus: And at the same time liv'd Cicero, and Saluft, and Cæfar. A famous Age in modern Times, for Learning in every kind, was that of Lorenzo de Medici, and his Son Leo X. wherein Painting was reviv'd, and Poetry Aourish'd, and the Greek Language was restor’d.
Examples in all these are obvious: But what I wou'd infer is this; That in such an Age, 'tis possible some Great Genius may arise, to equal any of the Ancients ; abating only for the Language. For great Contemporaries whet and cultivate each other : And mutual Bor
rowing, and Commerce, makes the common Riches of Learning, as it does of the Civil Government.
But suppose that Homer and Virgil were the only of their Species, and that Nature was so much worn out in producing them, that she is never able to bear the like again ; yet the Example only holds in Heroick Poetry: In Tragedy and Satyr, I offer myself to maintain against some of our modern Criticks, that this Age and the laft, particularly in England, have excell'd the Ancients in both those Kinds; and I wou'd instance in Shakespear of the former, of your Lordship in the latter fort.
Thus I might fafely confine myself to my Native Country: But if I would only cross the Seas, I might find in France a living Horace and a Juvenal, in the Person of the admirable Boileau; whose Numbers are Excellent, whose Expressions are Noble, whose Thoughts are Juft, whose Language is Pure, whose Satyr is Pointed, and whose Senfe is Close: What he borrows from the Ancients, he repays with Usury of his own, in Coin as good, and almost as universally valuable : For fetting Prejudice and Partiality apart; tho' he is our Enemy, the Stamp of a Louis, the Patron of all Arts, is not much inferior to the Medal of an Auguftus Cæfar. Let this be said without entering into the Interests of Factions and Parties, and relating only to the Bounty of that King to Men of Learning and Merit: A Praise so just, that even we who are his Enemies, cannot refuse it to him.
Now if it may be permitted me to go back again to the Confideration of Epique Poetry, I have confess'd, that no Man hitherto has reach'd, or so much as approach'd to the Excellencies of Homer or of Virgil; I muft farther add, that Statius, the best Versificator next : Virgil, knew not how to Design after him, tho' he had the Model in his Eye; that Lucan is wanting both in
Design and Subject, and is besides too full of Heat and Affectation that among the Moderns, Ariosto neither design'd Justly, nor observ'd any Unity of A&ion, or Compass of Time, or Moderation in the Valtness of his Draught : His Style is luxurious, without Majesty, or Decency, and his Adventurers without the Compass of Nature and Possibility: Talo, whose Design was regular, and who observ'd the Rules of Unity in Time and Place, more closely than Virgil, yet was not so happy in his Action ; he confesses himself to have been too Lyrical, that is, to have written beneath the Dignity of Heroick Verse, in his Episodes of Sophronia, Erminia, and Armida; his Story is not so pleasing as Ariosto's; he is too flatulent sometimes, and sometimes too dry; many times unequal, and almost always forc'd; and besides, is full of Conceptions, Points of Epigram, and Witticisms; all which are not only below the Dignity of Heroick Verse, but contrary to its Nature: Virgil and Homer have not one of them. And those who are guilty of fo Boyish an Ambition in so grave a Subject, are so far from being consider'd as Heroick Poets, that they ought to be turn'd down from Homer to the Anthologia, from Virgil to Martial and Owen's Epigrams, and from Spencer to Flecno ; that is, from the top to the bottom of all Poetry. But to return to Taffa, he borrows from the Invention of Boyardo, and in his Alteration of his Poem, which is infinitely the worse, imitates Homer so very yilely, that (for example, he gives the King of Jerue falem fifty Sons, only because Homer had bestowed the like Number on King Priam ; he kills the young eft in the same manner, and has provided his Hero with a Patroclus, under another Name, only to bring him back to the Wars, when his Friend was kill'd. The French have perform'd nothing in this kind, which is not as below those two Italians, and subject to a thousand more Reflections, without examining their St. Lewis,