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Both must alike from Heav'n derive their light, These born to judge, as well as those to write. Let such teach others who themselves excel, And censure freely, who have written well.
eminent degree; therefore, this quality, which all true Critics have in common, our Author makes his distinguishing character;
"Thee, bold Longinus! all the Nine inspire,
And bless their Critic with a Poet's fire."
i. e. with taste or genius.
Ver. 15. Let such teach others, &c.] But it is not enough that the Critic hath these natural endowments of judgment and taste, to entitle him to exercise his Art; he should, as our author shews us [from ver. 14 to 19.] in order to give a further test of his qualification, have put them successfully into use. And this on two accounts: 1. Because the office of a Critic is an exercise of authority. 2. Because he being naturally as partial to his Judgment as the Poet
Spenser is said to have written a critical discourse, called The Poet; the loss of which, considering the exquisite taste and extensive learning of Spenser, is much to be regretted. Next came Daniel's Apology; then Ben Jonson's Discoveries, the Preface to Gondibert, and Hobbes's Letter to D'Avenant, the Preface and Notes of Cowley (whose prose style, by the way, is admirable), Temple's Essays, Dryden's Essay on Dramatic Poetry, and his various Prefaces and Prologues, Rhymer's Preface to Rapin, and Letter on Tragedy, and Dennis's Reformation of Poetry, and the Essays of Roscommon and Buckingham. These were the critical pieces that preceded our Author's Essay, which was published without his name, May 1711, about the same time with Fenton's Epistle to Southerne; and did not, as Lewis the bookseller told me, sell at first, till our Author sent copies, as presents, to several eminent persons. Warton. Ver. 15. Let such teach others] "Qui scribit artificiose, ab aliis commode scripta facile intelligere poterit." Cic. ad Herenn. lib. iv. "De pictore, sculptore, fictore, nisi artifex, judicare non potest." Pliny.
Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true,
Poet is to his Wit, his partiality would have nothing to correct it, as that of the person judged hath by the very terms. Therefore some test is necessary; and the best, and most unexceptionable, is his having written well himself; an approved remedy against Critical partiality; and the surest means of so maturing the Judgment as to reap with glory what Longinus calls "the last and most perfect fruits of much study and experience.” Η ΓΑΡ ΤΩΝ ΛΟΓΩΝ ΚΡΙΣΙΣ ΠΟΛΛΗΣ ΕΣΤΙ ΠΕΙΡΑΣ ΤΕΛΕΥΤΑΙΟΝ ΕΠΙΓΕΝΝΗΜΑ. Warburton.
It is remarked by Dryden, I think, that none but a poet is qualified to judge of a poet. The maxim is however contradicted by experience. But although such as have actually performed nothing in the art itself, may not, on that account, be totally disqualified to judge with accuracy of any piece of workmanship, yet, perhaps, a judgment will come with more authority and force from an artist himself. Hence the connoisseurs highly prize the treatise of Rubens concerning the Imitation of Antique Statues, the Art of Painting by Lionardo da Vinci, and the Lives of the Painters by Vasari. As, for the same reasons, Rameau's Dissertation on The Thorough Bass; and The Introduction to a Good Taste in Music, by the excellent, but neglected, Geminiani, demand a particular regard. The prefaces of Dryden would be equally valuable, if he did not so frequently contradict himself, and advance opinions diametrically opposite to each other. Some of Corneille's discourses on his own tragedies are admirably just. And one of the best pieces of modern criticism, The Academy's Observations on the Cid, was, we know, the work of persons who had themselves written well. And our Author's own excellent preface to his translation of the Iliad, one of the best pieces of prose in the English language, is an example how well poets are qualified to be critics. Warton.
To these may be added Burney's History, and Criticisms, on Music; and Sir Joshua Reynolds's excellent Discourses on Painting. Bowles.
The maxim recommended in the text, and inforced in the notes,
Yet if we look more closely, we shall find
Most have the seeds of judgment in their mind: 20
Ver. 19. Yet if we look, &c.] But the Author having been thus free with the fundamental quality of Criticism, Judgment, so as to charge it with inconstancy and partiality, and to be often warped by custom and affection; that he may not be misunderstood, he next explains [from ver. 18 to 36.] the nature of Judgment, and the accidents occasioning those miscarriages before objected to it. He owns, that the seeds of Judgment are indeed sown in the minds of most men, but by ill culture, as it springs up, it generally runs wild either on the one hand, by FALSE LEARNING, which pedants call Philology; and by FALSE REASONING, which Philosophers call School-learning: or, on the other, by FALSE WIT, which is not regulated by sense; and by FALSE POLITENESS, which is solely regulated by the fashion. Both these sorts, who have their Judgment thus doubly depraved, the poet observes, are naturally turned to censure and abuse; only with this difference, that the learned Dunce always affects to be on the reasoning, and the unlearned Fool on the laughing side.-And thus, at the same time, our author proves the truth of his introductory observation, that the number of bad Critics is vastly superior to that of bad Poets.
is but of questionable authority. Poets and Painters must appeal to the world at large, and the world has a right to decide on their productions. Wretched indeed would be their fate, if their merits were to be decided only by their rivals. It is on the general opinion of persons of taste and judgment that their individual estimation must ultimately rest, and if the public were excluded from judging, poets might write and painters paint for each other. Every painter and every writer has a style or manner of his own, by which his productions are characterized, and which he conceives to be preferable to all the rest. This he naturally and unavoidably applies to judge of the productions of others, which he approves or condemns according as they approach to, or recede from, his own standard. Rubens must judge like Rubens, Lionardo like Lionardo, and Vasari like Vasari. Pope has been aware of, and has endeavoured to obviate this remark in the following lines:
Nature affords at least a glimm'ring light,
"Authors are partial to their wit 'tis true;
But are not critics to their judgment too?
To which it may be answered, that the Critic or Connoisseur, who is conversant with the style of different artists or writers, forms in his mind an idea of general excellence, which enables him to give a more impartial, and perhaps a more correct opinion, than a professor in any particular department. Accordingly, experience has shewn, that the most eminent critics in literature, or in art, are not found among professed poets or artists,-witness Aristotle, Longinus, the elder and younger Pliny, Quintilian, Fr. Junius, Borghini, Malvasia, Winckelman, De Piles, Du Bos, Lanzi, and numerous writers of our own country. The instances referred to by Warton are mostly practical treatises on art, not on the Principles of taste. If we would promote these studies, we must diffuse the spirit of criticism as widely as possible, and give to the Professors a PUBLIC, which alone can properly appreciate and fully remunerate their labours.
Ver. 20. Most have the seeds] "Omnes tacito quodam sensu sine ullâ arte aut ratione, quæ sint in artibus ac rationibus, recta et prava disjudicant."-Cic. de Orat. lib. iii.
Ver. 25. So by false learning] " Plus sine doctrinâ prudentia, quam sine prudentiâ valet doctrina."-Quint.
Between ver. 25 and 26 were these lines, since omitted by the author:
Many are spoil'd by that pedantic throng,
Who with great pains teach youth to reason wrong.
Tutors, like Virtuoso's, oft inclined
By strange transfusion to improve the mind,
Draw off the sense we have, to pour in new;
Which yet, with all their skill, they ne'er could do.
Some are bewilder'd in the maze of schools,
And some made coxcombs Nature meant but fools.
There are, who judge still worse than he can write.
Ver. 36. Some have at first for Wits, &c.] The poet having enumerated, in this account of the nature of Judgment and its various depravations, the several sorts of bad critics, and ranked them into two general Classes; as the first sort, namely the men spoiled by false learning, are but few in comparison of the other, and likewise come less within his main view (which is poetical Criticism) but keep grovelling at the bottom amongst words and syllables, he thought it enough for his purpose here, just to have mentioned them,
Ver. 28. In search of wit these lose their common sense,] This observation is extremely just. Search of Wit is not only the occasion, but the efficient cause of the loss of common sense. Wit consisting in chusing out, and setting together such Ideas from whose assemblage pleasant pictures may be drawn on the Fancy; the Judgment, through an habitual search of Wit, loses, by degrees, its faculty of seeing the true relation of things; in which consists the exercise of common sense. Warburton.
Ver. 32. All fools] The sentiment is just. And if Hobbes's account of laughter be true, that it arises from a silly pride, we see the reason of it. The expression too is fine; it alludes to the condition of idiots and natural fools, who are observed to be ever on the grin. Warburton.