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27. A preface very frequently contains such a piece of criticism, as tends to countenance and establish the peculiarities of the piece. 28. I hate a style, as I do a garden, that is wholly flat and regular; that slides along like an eel, and never rises to what one can call an inequality.
29. It is obvious to discover that imperfections of one kind have a visible tendency to produce perfections of another. Mr. Pope's bodily disadvantages must incline him to a more laborious cultivation of his talent, without which he foresaw that he must have languished in obscurity. The advantages of person are a good deal essential to popularity in the grave world as well as the gay. Mr. Pope, by an unwearied application to poetry, became not only the favourite of the learned, but also of the ladies. 30. Pope, I think, never once mentions Prior; tho' Prior speaks so handsomely of Pope in his “ Alma.” One might imagine that the latter, indebted as he was to the former for such numberles. beauties, should have readily repaid this poetical obligation. This can only be imputed to pride or party-cunning. In other words, to some modification of selfishness. 31. Virgil never mentions Horace, tho' indebted to him for two very well-natured compliments. 32. Pope seems to me the most correct writer since Virgil; the greatest genius only since Dryden. 33. No one was ever more fortunate than Mr. Pope in a judicious choice of his poetical subjects. 34. Pope's talent lay remarkably in what one may naturally enough term the condensation of thoughts. I think, no other English poet ever brought so much sense into the same number of lines with equalsmoothness, ease, and poetical beauty. Let him who doubts of this peruse his " Essay on Man" with attention. Perhaps, this was a talent from which he could not easily have swerved: perhaps, he could not have sufficiently rarefied his thoughts to produce that flimsiness which is required in a ballad or love-song. His “ Monster of Ragusa" and his “ Translations from Chaucer" have some little tendency to invalidate this observation.
35. I durst not have censured Mr. Pope's writings in his life-time, you say. True. A writer surrounded with all his fame, engaging with another that is hardly known, is a man in armour attacking another in his night-gown and slippers. 36. Pope's religion is often found very advantageous to his descriptive talents, as it is, no doubt, embellished with the most pompous scenes and ostentatious imagery: for instance,
“When from the censer clouds of,” &c. 37. Pope has made the utmost advantage of alliteration, regulating it by the pause with the utmost success:
“ Die and endow a college or a cat," &c. &c. It is an easy kind of beauty. Dryden seems to have borrowed it from Spenser.
38. Pope has published fewer foibles than any other poet that is equally voluminous.
39. It is no doubt extremely possible to form an English prosody; but to a good ear it were almost superfluous, and to a bad one useless; this last being, I believe, never joined with a poetic genius. It may be joined with wit; it may be connected with sound judgment: but is surely never united with taste, which is the life and soul of poetry.
40. Rhymes, in elegant poetry, should consist of syllables that are long in pronunciation: such as are, ear, ire, ore, your;" in which a nice ear will find more agreeableness than in these;
"'gnat, net, knit, knot, nut.” 41. There is a vast beauty (to me) in using a word of a particular nature in the eighth and ninth syllables of an English
I mean, what is virtually a dactyl. For instance,
“ And pikes, the tyrants of the wat’ry plains.” Let any person of an ear substitute “ liquid" instead of “ wat’ry,” and he will find the disadvantage. Mr. Pope (who has improved our versification through a judicious disposition of the pause) seems not enough aware of this beauty. 42. As to the frequent use of alliteration, it has probably had it's day. 33. It has ever a good effect when the stress of the thought is laid upon that word which the voice most naturally pronounces with an emphasis.
“ I nunc & versus-tecum meditare," &c.
Virg. Virgil, whose very metre appears to effect one's passions, was a master of tbis secret. 44. There are numbers in the world, who do not want sense, to make a figure so much as an opinion of their own abilities, to put them on recording their observations, and allowing them the same importance which they do to those which others print. 45. A good writer cannot, with the utmost study, produce some thoughts, which will flow from a bad one with ease and precipitation. The reverse is also true. A bad writer, &c.
46. “ Creat wits have short memories,” is a proverb; and as such has undoubtedly some foundation in nature. The case seems to be, that men of genius forget things of common concern, unimportant facts, and circumstances, which make no slight impression in every day minds. But surely it will be found that all wit depends on memory; i. e. on the recollection of passages, either to illustrate or contrast with any present occasion. It is probably the fate of a common understanding to forget the very things which the man of wit remembers. But an oblivion of those things which almost every one remembers, renders his case the more remarkaable, and this explains the mystery. 47. Prudes allow no quarter to such ladies as have fallen a sacrifice to the gentle passions; either because themselves, being borne away by the malignant ones, perhaps never felt the other so powerful as to occasion them any difficulty; or because no one has tempted them to transgress that way themselves. It is the same case with some critics, with regard to the errors of ingenious writers.
48. It seems with wit and good-nature, “ Utrum horum mavis accipe.” Taste and good-nature are universally connected. 49. Voiture's compliments to ladies are honest on account of their excess.
50. Poetry and consumptions are the most flattering of diseases. 51. Every person insensibly fixes on some degree of refinement in his discourse, some measure of thought which he thinks worth exhibiting. It is wise to fix this pretty high, altho' it occasions one to talk the less.
52. Some men use no other ineans to acquire respect, than by insisting on it; and it sometimes answers their purpose, as it does a bighwayman's in regard to money.
53. There is nothing exerts a genius so much as writing plays; the reason is, that the writer puts himself in the place of every person that speaks.
54. Perfect characters in a poem make but little better figure than
regular hills, perpendicular trees, uniform rocks, and level sheets of water, in the formation of a landscape. The reason is, they are not natural, and moreover want variety
55. Trifles discover a character more than actions of importance. In regard to the former, a person is off his guard, and thinks it not material to use disguise. It is, to me, no imperfect hint towards the discovery of a man's character, to say he looks as tho' you might be certain of finding a pin upon his sleeve. 6. A grammarian speaks of first and second person: a poet of Celia and Corydon: a mathematician of A and B: a lawyer of Nokes and Styles. The very quintessence of pedantry! 57. Shakespeare makes his very bombast answer his purpose, by the persons he chuses to utter it.
58. A poet, till he arrives at thirty, can see no other good than a poetical reputation. About that æra, he begins to discover some other. 59. The plan of Spencer's “ Fairy-queen" appears to me very imperfect. His iinagination, tho’ sive, yet somewhat less so, perhaps, than is generally allowed ; if one consider the facility of realizing and equipping forth the virtues and vices. His metre has some advantages, tho', in many respects, exceptionable. His good-nature is visible through every part
His conjunction of the pagan and christian scheme (as he introduces the deities of both acting simultaneously) wholly inexcusable. Much art and judginent are discovered in parts, and but little in the whole. Ove may entertain some doubt whether the perusal of his monstrous descriptions be not as prejudicial to true taste, as it is advantageous to the extent of imagination. Spencer, to be sure, expands the last; but then he expands it beyond it's
of his poem.