« FöregåendeFortsätt »
the Errors of other Men: But 'eis your Prerogative to pardon them; to look with Pleasure on those things, which are somewhat congenial, and of a remote Kindred to your own Conceptions: And to forgive the many Failings of those, who with their wretched Art, cannot arrive to those Heights that you poffefs, from a happy, abundant, and native Genius : Which are as inborn to you, as they were to Shakespear; and for ought I know, to Homer ; in either of whom we find all Arts and Sciences, all Moral and Natural Philosophy, without knowing that they ever study'd them.
There is not an English Writer this Day living, who is not perfectly convinc'd, that your Lordship excels all others, in all the several parts of Poetry which you have undertaken to adorn. The most Vain, and the most Ambitious of our Age, have not dar'd to assume fo much, as the Competitors of Themistocles: They have yielded the first place without dispute ; and have been arrogantly content to be esteem'd as Second to your Lordship; and even that also with a Longo fed proximi Intervallo. If there have been, or are any, who
farther in their Self-conceit, they must be very fingular in their Opinion: They must be like the of ficer, in a Play, who was callid Captain, Lieutenant and Company. The World will easily conclude, whether such unattended Generals can ever be capable of making a Revolution in Parnasus.
I will not attempt, in this place, to say any thing particular of your Lyrick Poems, tho' they are the Delight and Wonder of this Age, and will be the Envy of the next.
The Subject of this Book confines me to Satyr ; and in that, an Author of your own Quality, (whose Ashes I will not disturb.) has given you all the Commendation, which his Self-sufficiency cou'd afford to any Man: The best good Mon, with the workmaturd Muse. In that Character, methinks, I am
reading Johnson's Verses to the Memory of Shakespear: An Insolent, Sparing, and Invidious Panegyrick : Where good Nature, the most Godlike Commendation of a Man, is only attributed to your Person, and deny'd to your Writings : For they are every where so full of Candor, that, like Horace, you only expose the Follies of Men, without arraigning their Vices; and in this excel him, that you add that Pointedness of Thought, which is visibly wanting in our great Ro
There is more of Salt in all your Verses, than I have seen in any of the Moderns, or even of the Ancients : But you have been sparing of the Gall; by which means you have pleas'd all Readers, and offend.
Donn alone, of all our Country-men, bad your Talent ; but was not happy enough to arrive at your Versification. And were he tranflated into Numbers, and English, he wou'd yet be wanting in the Dige nity of Expression. That which is the Prime Virtue, and chief Ornament of Virgil, which distinguishes hint from the rest of Writers, is so conspicuous in your Verses, that it casts a Shadow on all your Contemporaries ; we cannot be seen, or but obscurely, while you are present. You equal Donn in the Variety, Multiplicity, and Choice of Thoughts; you excel him in the Man. ner and the Words. I read you both, with the fame Admiration, but not with the same Delight. He af. fects the Metaphyficks, not only in his Satyrs, but in his amorous Verses, where. Nature only should reign ; and perplexes the Minds of the fair Sex with nice Spe. calations of Philosophy, when he thou'd engage their Hearts, and entertain them with the Softness of Love. In this (if I may be pardon'd for so bold a Truth) Mr. Cowley has copy'd him to a Fault ; so great a one in my Opinion, that it throws his Mistress infinitely below his Pindariques, and his latter Compositions, which are undoubtedly the best of his Poems, and the most
correct. For my own part, I must avow it freely to the World, that I never attempted any thing in Satyr, wherein I have not study'd your Writings as the most perfect Model. I have continually laid them before me; and the greatest Commendation, which my own Partiality can give to my Productions, is, that they are Copies, and no farther to be allow'd, than as they have something more or less of the Original. Some few Touches of your Lordship, some secret Graces which I have endeavour'd to express after your manner, have made whole Poems of mine to pass with Approbation : But take your Verses altogether, and they are inimitable. If therefore I have not written better, 'tis because you have not written more. You have not fet me fufficient Copy to transcribe ; and I cannot add one Letter of my own Invention, of which I have not the Exainple there.
'Tis a general Complaint againk your Lordship, and I must have leave to upbraid you with it, that, because you need not write, you will not. Mankind that wishes you so well, in all things that relate to your Prosperity, have their Intervals of wishing for themselves, and are within a little of grudging you the Fulness of your Fortune: They wou'd be more malicious if you us'd it not so well, and with so much Generosity.
Fame is in itself a real Good, if we may believe Cicero, who was perhaps too fond of it. But even Fame, as Virgil tells us, acquires strength by going forward. Let Epicurus give Indolency as an Attribute to his Gods, and place in it the Happiness of the Blest: The Divinity which we worship, has given us not only a Precept against it, but his own Example to the contrary. The World, my Lord, wou'd be content to allow you a Seventh Day for Reft ; or if you thought that hard upon you, we wou'd not refuse you half your time : If you came out, like some Great
Monarch, to take a Town but once a Year, as it were for your Diversion, tho' you had no need to extend your Territories : In short, if you were a bad, or which is worse, an indifferent Poet, we wou'd thank you for
own Quiet, and not expose you to the want of yours. But when you are so great and so fuccessful, and when we have that necessity of your Writing, that we cannot subfift intirely without it; any more (I may almost fay) than the World without the daily Course of ordinary Providence, methinks this Argument might prevail with you, my Lord, to forego a little of your Repose for the publick Benefit. 'Tis not that you are under any force of working daily Miracles, to prove your Being; but now and then somewhat of extraordinary, that is any thing of your Production, is requifite to refresh your Character.
This, I think, my Lord, is a fufficient Reproach to you; and shou'd I carry it as far as Mankind wou'd authorize me, wou'd be little less than Satyr. And, indeed, a Provocation is almost necessary, in behalf of the World, that you might be induc'd sometimes to write; and in relation to a multitude of Scriblers, who daily pefter the World with their insufferable stuff, that they might be discouraged from Writing any more. I complain not of their Lampoons and Libels, tho' I have been the publick Mark for many Years. I am vin. dictive enough to have repelled Force by Force, if I cou'd imagine that any of them had ever reach'd me ; but they either shot at Rovers, and therefore missed, or their Powder was so weak, that I might fafely stand them, at the nearest Distance. I answer'd not the Rehearsal, because I knew the Author sate to himself when he drew the Picture, and was the very Bays of his own Farce. Because also I knew, that my Betters were more concerned than I was in that Satyr : and, lastly, because Mr. Smith and Mr. Johnfon, the Aļ
main Pillars of it, were two' such languishing Gentlemen in their Conversation, that I cou'd liken them to nothing but to their own Relations, those Noble Cha. racters of Men of Wit and Pleasure about the Town. The like Confiderations have hinder'd me from dealing with the lamentable Companions of their Prose and Doggrel; I am so far from defending my Poetry againk them, that I will not so much as expose theirs. And for my Morals, if they are not Proof against their Attacks, let me be thought by Pofterity, what those Authors wou'd be thought, if any Memory of them, or of their Writings, cou'd endure so long, as to another Age. But these dull Makers of Lampoons, as harmleis as they have been to me, are yet of dangerous Example to the Publick: fome witty Men may perhaps fucceed to their Designs, and mixing Sense with Malice, blaft the Reputation of the most innocent amonga Men, and the most Vircuous amongst Women.
Heaven be prais’d, our common Libellers are as free from the imputation of Wit, as of Morality; and therefore whatever Mischief they have design'd, they have perform'd but liule of it. Yet these ill Writers, in all Justice, ought themselves to be expos'd : As Per. kus has given us a fair Example in his First Satyr; which is levell d 'particolarly at them: And none is so kt to correct their Faults, as he who is not only clear from any in his own Writings, but also so just, that he will never defame the Good; and is armed with the Power of Veríe, to punish and make Examples of the Bad. But of his I shall have occafion to speak fursher, when I come to give the Definition and Chajacter of true Satyrs.
In the mean time, as a Counsellor bred up in the Knowledge of the Municipal and Statute-Laws, may bonefly inform a Juft Prince how far his Prerogative extends; fo I may be allowed to tell your Lordship;