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which I undertook. If he was not of the best age of Roman poetry, he was at least of that which preceded it; and he himself refined it to that degree of perfection, both in the language and the thoughts, that he left an easy task to Virgil, who, as he succeeded him in time, so he copied his excellences; for the method of the
Georgics' is plainly derived from him. Lucretins had chosen a subject naturally crabbed; he therefore adorned it with poetical descriptions, and precepts of morality, in the beginning and ending of his books, which you see Virgil has imitated with great success in those four books, which, in my opinion, are more perfect in their kind than even his divine 'Eneids.' The turn of his verses he has likewise followed in those places which Lucretius has most laboured, and some of his very lines he has transplanted into his own works, without much variation. If I am not mistaken, the distinguishing character of Lucretius-I mean of his soul and genius-is a certain kind of noble pride, and positive assertion of his opinions. He is everywhere confident of his own reason, and assuming an absolute command, not only over his vulgar reader, but even his patron Memmius; for he is always bidding him attend, as If he had the rod over him, and using a magisterial authority while he instructs him. From his time to ours, I know none so like him as our poet and philosopher of Malmesbury [Hobbes]. This is that perpetual dictatorship which is exercised by Lucretius, who, though often in the wrong, yet seems to deal bona fide with his reader, and tells him nothing but what he thinks; in which plain sincerity, I believe, he differs from our Hobbes, who could not but be convinced, or at least doubt, of some eternal truths which he has opposed. But for Lucretius, he seems to disdain all manner of replies, and is so confident of his cause, that he is beforehand with his antagonists; urging for them whatever he imagined they could say, and leaving them, as he supposes, without an objection for the future; all this, too, with so much scorn and indignation, as if he were assured of the triumph before he entered into the lists. From this sublime and daring genius of his, it must of necessity come to pass that this thoughts must be masculine, full of argumentation, and that sufficiently warm. From the same fiery temper proceeds the loftiness of his expressions, and the perpetual torrent of his verse, where the barrenness of his subject does not too much constrain the quickness of his fancy. For there is no doubt to be made but that he could have been everywhere as poetical as he is in his descriptions, and in the moral part of his philosophy, if he had not aimed more to instruct, in his System of Nature, than to delight. But he was bent upon making Memmius a materialist, and teaching him to defy an invisible power; in short, he was so much an atheist, that he forgot sometimes to be a poet. These are the considerations which I had of that author, before I attempted to translate some parts of him. And accordingly I laid by my natural diffidence and scepticism for awhile, to take up that doginatical way of his, which, as said, is so much his character, as to make him that individual poet. As for his opinions concerning the mortality of the soul, they are so absurd, that I cannot, if I would, believe them. I think a future state démonstrable even by natural arguments; at least, to take away rewards and punishments is only a pleasing prospect to a man who resolves beforehand not to live morally. But, on the other side, the thought of being nothing after death is a burden insupportable to a virtuous man, even though a heathen. We naturally aim at happiness, and cannot bear to have it confined to the shortness of our present being; especially when we consider that virtue is generally unhappy in this world, and vice fortunate; so that it is hope of futurity alone that makes this life tolerable, in expectation of a better. Who would not commit all the excesses to which he is prompted by his natural inclinations, if he may do them with security while he is alive, and be incapable of punísment after he is dead? If he be cunning and secret enough to avoid the laws, there is no band of morality to restrain him: for fame and reputation are weak tics; many men have not the least sense of them. Powerful men are only awed by them as they conduce to their interest, and that not always when a passion is predominant; and no man will be contained within the bounds of duty, when he may safely trangress them. These are my thoughts abstractedly, and without entering into the notions of our Christian faith, which is the proper business of divines. Spenser and Milton.--From 'Discourse on the Original and Progress of Satire,' 1693.
[In epic poetry] the English have only to boast of Spenser and Milton, who neither of them wanted either genius or learning to have been perfect poets, and yet
both of them are liable to many censures. For there is no uniformity in the design of Spenser; he aims at the accomplishment of no one action, he raises up a hero for every one of his adventures, and endows each of them with some particular moral virtue, which renders them all equal, without subordination or preference. Every one is most valiant in his own legend; only, we must do him that justice to observe, that Magnanimity, which is the character of Prince Arthur, shines throughout the whole poem, and succours the rest when they are in distress. The original of every knight was then living in the court of Queen Elizabeth; and he attributed to each of them that virtue which he thought was most conspicuous in them-an ingenious piece of flattery, though it turned not much to his account, Had he lived to finish his poem, in the six remaining legends, it had certainly been more of a piece, but could not have been perfect, because the model was not true. But Prince Arthur, or his chief patron, Sir Philip Sydney, whom he intended to make happy by the marriage of his Gloriana, dying before him, deprived the poet both of means and spirit to accomplish his design. For the rest, his obsolete language, and the ill choice of his stanza, are faults but of the second magnitude; for, notwithstanding the first, he is still intelligible, at least after a little practice; and for the last, he is the more to be admired, that, labouring under such a difficulty, his verses are so numerous, so various, and so harmonious, that only Virgil, whom he professedly imitated, has surpassed him among the Romans, and only Mr. Waller among the English.
As for Mr. Milton, whom we all admire with so much justice, his subject is not that of a heroic poem, properly so called. His design is the losing of our happiness; his event is not prosperous, like that of all other epic works; his heavenly machines are many, and his human persons are but two. But I will not take Mr. Rymer's work out of his hands: he has promised the world a critique on that author, wherein, though he will not allow his poem for heroic, I hope he will grant us that his thoughts are elevated, his words sounding, and that no man has so happily copied the manner of Homer, or so copiously translated his Grecisms, and the Latin elegances of Virgil. It is true he runs into a flat of thought sometimes for a hundred lines together, but it is when he has got into a track of Scripture. His antiquated words were his choice, not his necessity; for therein he imitated Spenser, as Spenser did Chaucer. And though, perhaps, the love of their masters may have transported both too far, in the frequent use of them, yet, in my opinion, obsolete words may then be laudably revived, when either they are more sounding or more significant than those in practice; and when their obscurity is taken away by joining other words to them which clear the sense, according to the rule of Horace, for the admission of new wonds. But in both cases a moderation is to be observed in the use of them; for mnecessary coinage, as well as unnecessary revival, runs into affectation; a fault to be avoided on either hand. Neither will I justify Milton for his blank verse, though I may excuse him, by the example of Hannibal Caro, and other Italians, who have used it; for whatever causes he alleges for the abolishing of rhyme-which I have not now the leisure to examine his own parlicnlar reason is plainly this, that rhyme was not his talent; he had neither the ease of doing it, nor the graces of it, which is manifest in his Juvenilia,' or verses written in his youth, where his rhyme is always constrained and forced, and comes hardly from him, at an age when the soul is most pliant, and the passion of love makes almost every man a rhymer, though not a poet.
On Lampoons.-From the Same.
In a word, that former sort of satire, which is known in England by the name of lampoon, is a dangerous sort of weapon, and for the most part unlawful. We have no moral right on the reputation of other men. It is taking from them what we cannot restore to them. There are only two reasons for which we may be permitted to write lampoons; and I will not promise that they can always justify us. The first is revenge, when we have been affronted in the same nature, or have been anyways notoriously abused, and can make ourselves no other reparation. And yet we know, that, in Christian charity, all offences are to be forgiven, as we expect the like pardon for those which we daily commit against Almighty God. And this consideration has often made me tremble when I was saying our Saviou.'s prayer; for the plain condition of the forgiveness which we beg, is the pardoning of others the offences which
they have done to us; for which reason I have many times avoided the commission of that fault, even when I have been notoriously provoked. Let not this, my lord [Dorset], pass for vanity in me, for it is truth. More libels have been written against me than almost any man now living; and I had reason on my side to have defended my own innocence. I speak not of my poetry, which I have wholly given up to the critics; let them use it as they please: posterity, perhaps, may be more favourable to me; for interest and passion will lie buried in another age, and partiality and prejudice be forgotter. I speak of my morals, which have been sufficiently aspersed: that only sort of reputation ought to be dear to every honest man, and is to me. But let the world witness for me, that I have been often wanting to myself in that particular: I have seldom answered any scurrilous lampoon, when it was in my power to have exposed my enemies: and, being naturally vindicative, have suffered in silence, and possessed my soul in quiet.
Anything, though never so little, which a man speaks of himself, in my opinion, is still too much; and therefore, I will waive this subject, and proceed to give the second reason which may justify a poet when he writes against a particular person; and that is, when he is become a public nuisance. All those whom Horace in his Satires, and Persius and Juvenal have mentioned in theirs, with a brand of infamy, are wholly such. It is an action of virtue to make examples of vicious men. They may and ought to be upbraided with their crimes and follies; both for their amendment, if they are not yet incorrigible, and for the terror of others, to hinder them from falling into those enormities, which they see are so severely punished in the persons of others. The first reason was only an excuse for revenge; but this second is absolutely of a poet's office to perform; but how few lampooners are now living who are capable of this duty!* When they come in my way, it is impossible sometimes to avoid reading them. But, good God! how remote they are, in common justice, from the choice of such persons as are the proper subject of satire! And how little wit they bring for the support of their injustice! The weaker sex is their most ordinary theme; and the best and fairest are sure to be the most severely handled. Amongst men, those who are prosperously unjust are entitled to panegyric; but afflicted virtue is insolently stabbed with all manner of reproaches; no decency is considered, no fulsomeness omitted; no vemon is wanting, as far as dulness can supply it; for there is a perpetual dearth of wit; a barrenness of good sense and entertainment. The neglect of the readers will soon put an end to this sort of scribbling. There can be no pleasantry where there is no wit; no impression can be made where there is no truth for the foundation. To conclude: they are like the fruits of the earth in this unnatural season: the corn which held up its head is spoiled with rankness; but the greater part of the harvest is laid along, and little of good income and wholesome nourishment is received into the barns. This is almost a digression, I confess to your lordship; but a just indignation forced it from me.
History and Biography.-From 'The Life of Plutarch, 1683.
It may now be expected that, having written the life of an historian, I should take occasion to write somewhat concerning history itself. But I think to commend it is unnecessary, for the profit and pleasure of that study are so very obvious, that a quick reader will be beforehand with me, and imagine faster than I can write. Besides, that the post is taken up already; and few authors have travelled this way, but who have strewed it with rhetoric as they passed. For my own part, who must confess it to my shame, that I never read anything but for pleasure, it has always been the most delightful entertainment of my life; but they who have employed the study of it, as they ought, for their instruction, for the regulation of their private manners, and the management of public affairs, must agree with me that it is the most pleasant school of wisdom. It is a familiarity with past ages, and en acquaintance with all the heroes of them; it is. if you will pardon the similitude, a prospective glass, carrying your soul to a vast distance, and taking in the farthest objects of antiquity. It informs the understanding by the memory; It helps us to judge of what will happen,
* The abuse of personal satires, or lampoons, as they were called, was carried to a prodigious extent in the days of Dryden, when every man of fashion was obliged to write verses: and those who had neither poetry nor wit, had recourse to ribaldry and libelling.-Sir Walter Scott.
by shewing us the like revolutions of former times. For mankind being the same in all ages, agitated by the same passions, and moved to action by the same interests, nothing can come to pass but some precedent of the like nature has already been produced; so that, having the causes before our eyes, we cannot easily be deceived in the effects, if we have judgment enough but to draw the parallel.
God, it is true, with his divine providence overrules and guides all actions to the secret end he has ordained them; but in the way of human causes, a wise man may easily discern that there is a natural connection betwixt them; and though he cannot foresee accidents, or all things that possibly can come, he may apply examples, and by them foretell that from the like counsels will probably succeed the like events; and thereby in all conceruments, and all offices of life, be instructed in the two main points on which depend our happiness-that is, what to avoid, and what to choose.
The laws of history, in general, are truth of matter, method, and clearness of expression. The first propriety is necessary, to keep our understanding from the impositions of falsehood; for history is an argument framed from many particular examples or inductions; if these examples are not true, then those measures of life which we take from them will be false, and deceive us in their consequence. The second is grounded on the former; for if the method be confused, if the words or expressions of thought are any way obscure, then the ideas which we receive must be imperfect; and if such, we are not taught by them what to elect or what to shun. Truth, therefore, is required as the foundation of history to inform us, disposition and perspicuity as the inanner to inform us plainly; one is the being, the other the well-being of it.
History is principally divided into these three species-commentaries, or annals; history, properly so called; and biographia, or the lives of particular men.
Commentaries, or annals, are-as I may so call them-naked history, or the plain relation of matter of fact, according to the succession of time, divested of all other ornaments. The springs and motives of actions are not here sought, unless they offer themselves, and are open to every man's discernment. The method is the most natural that can be imagined, depending only on the observation of months and years, and drawing, in the order of them, whatsoever happened worthy of relation. The style is easy, simple, unforced, and unadorned with the pomp of figures; councils, guesses, politic observations, sentences, and orations, are avoided; in few words, a bare narration is its business. Of this kind, the 'Commentaries' of Cæsar are certainly the most admirable, and after him the Annals' of Tacitus may have place; nay, even the prince of Greek historians, Thucydides, may almost be adopted into the number. For, though he instructs everywhere by sentences, though he gives the causes of actions, the councils of both parties, and makes orations where they are necessary, yet it is certain that he first designed his work a commentary; every year writing down, like an unconcerned spectator as he was, the particular occurrences of the time, in the order as they happened; and his eighth book is wholly written after the way of annals; though, outliving the war, he inserted in his others those ornaments which render his work the most complete and most instructive now extant.
History, properly so called, may be described by the addition of those parts which are not required to annals; and therefore there is little further to be said concerning it; only, that the dignity and gravity of style is here necessary. That the guesses of secret causes inducing to the actions, be drawn at least from the most probable circumstances, not perverted by the malignity of the author to sinister interpretationsof which Tacitus is accused-but candidly laid down, and left to the judgment of the reader; that nothing of concernment be omitted; but things of trivial moment are still to be neglected, as debasing the majesty of the work; that neither partiality nor prejudice appear, but that truth may everywhere be sacred.
Biographia, or the history of particular men's lives, comes next to be considered; which in dignity is inferior to the other two, as being more confined in action, and treating of wars and councils, and all other public affairs of nations, only as they relate to him whose life is written, or as his fortunes have a particular dependence on them, or connection to them. All things here are circumscribed and driven to a point, so as to terminate in one; consequently, if the action or counsel were managed by colleagues, some part of it must be either lame or wanting, except it be supplied by the excursion of the writer. Herein, likewise, must be less of variety, for the same reason; because the fortunes and actions of one man are related, not those
of many. Thus the actions and achievements of Sylla, Lucullus, and Pompey, are all of them but the successive parts of the Mithridatic war; of which we could have no perfect image, if the same hand had not given us the whole, though at several views, in their particular lives.
Yet though we allow, for the reasons above alleged, that this kind of writing is in dignity inferior to history and annals, in pleasure and instruction it equals, or even excels, both of them. It is not only commended by ancient practice to celebrate the memory of great and worthy men, as the best thanks which posterity can pay them, but also the examples of virtue are of more vigour when they are thus contracted into individuals. As the sunbeams, united in a burning-glass to a point, have greater force than when they are darted from a plain superficies, so the virtues and actions of one man, drawn together in a single story, strike upon our minds a stronger and more lively impression than the scattered relations of many men and many actions; and by the same means that they give us pleasure, they afford us profit too. For when the understanding is intent and fixed upon a single thing, it carries closer to the mark; every part of the object sinks into it, and the soul receives it unmixed and whole. For this reason, Aristotle commends the unity of action in a poem; because the mind is not capable of digesting many things at once, nor of conceiving fully any more than one idea at a time. Whatsoever distracts the pleasure, lessens it: and as the reader is more concerned at one man's fortune than those of many, so likewise the writer is more capable of making a perfect work if he confines himself to this narrow compass. The lineaments, features, and colourings of a single picture may be hit exactly; but in a history-piece of many figures, the general design, the ordonnance or disposition of it, the relation of one figure to another, the diversity of the posture, habits, shadowings, and all the other graces conspiring to a uniformity, are of so difficult performance, that neither is the resemblance of particular persons often perfect, nor the beauty of the piece complete; for any considerable error in the parts renders the whole disagreeable and lame. Thus, then, the perfection of the work, and the benefit arising from it, are both more absolute in biography than in history. All history is only the precepts of moral philosophy reduced into examples. Moral philosophy is divided into two parts, ethics and politics: the first instructs us in our private offices of virtue, the second in those which relate to the management of the commonwealth. Both of these teach by argumentation and reasoning, which rush, as it were, into the mind, and possess it with viclence; but history rather allures than forces us to virtue. There is nothing of the tyrant in example; but it gently glides into us, is easy and pleasant in its passage, and, in one word, reduces into practice our speculative notions; therefore the more powerful the examples are, they are the more useful also, and by being more known, they are more powerful. Now, unity which is defined, is in its own nature more apt to be understood than multiplicity, which in some measure participates of infinity. The reason is Aristotle's.
Biographia, or the histories of particular lives, though circumscribed in the subject, is yet more extensive in the style than the other two; for it not only comprehends them both, but has somewhat superadded, which neither of them have. The style of it is various, according to the occasion. There are proper places in it for the plainness and nakedness of narration, which is ascribed to annals; there is also room reserved for the loftiness and gravity of general history, when the actions related shall require that manner of expression. But there is, withal, a descent into minute circumstances and trivial passages of life, which are natural to this way of writing, and which the dignity of the other two will not admit. There you are conducted only into the rooms of state, here you are led into the private lodgings of the hero; you see him in his undress, and are made familiar with his most private actions and conversations. You may behold a Scipio and a Lælius gathering cockleshells on the shore, Augustus playing at bounding-stones with boys, and Agesilaus riding on a hobby-horse among his children. The pageantry of life is taken away; you see the poor reasonable animal as naked as ever nature made him; are made acquainted with his passions and his follies; and find the demi-god a man. Plutarch himself has more than once defended this kind of relating little passages; for, in the life of Alexander, he says thus: In writing the lives of illustrious men, I am not tied to the laws of history; nor does it follow, that, because an action is great, it therefore manifests the greatness and virtue of him who did it; but, on the other side, sometimes a word or a casual jest betrays a man more to our knowledge of him,