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word I mean not to be his Panegyrift, but his Hiftorian. And may I, when Envy and Calumny take the fame advantage of my abfence (for, while I live, I will freely truft it to my Life to confute them) may I find a Friend as careful of my honeft fame as I have been of His! Together with his Works, he hath bequeathed me his DUNCES. So that as the property is transferred, I could wish they would now let his memory alone. The veil which Death draws over the Good is fo facred, that to throw dirt upon the Shrine fcandalizes even Barbarians. And though Rome permitted her Slaves to calumniate her best Citizens on the day of Triumph, yet the fame petulancy at their Funeral would have been rewarded with execration and a gibbet.
N. B. This Edition of Mr. Pope's Works is printed verbatim from the large Octavo; with all his Notes, and a felec number of the Editor's.
Contents of the Firft Volume.
Page 38. In the quotation from Virgil, 1. 1. for man-
51. In the imitation, for coloris, r. colonis.
137. Note, 1. 3.
138. Note, 1. 3.
for deferve, r. deferves.
AM inclined to think that both the writers of
books, and the readers of them, are generally not a little unreasonable in their expectations. The first seem to fancy that the world muft approve whatever they produce, and the latter to imagine that authors are obliged to please them at any rate. Methinks, as on the one hand, no fingle man is born with a right of controuling the opinions of all the reft; fo on the other, the world has no title to demand, that the whole care and time of any particular perfon fhould be facrificed to its entertainment. Therefore I cannot but believe that writers and readers are under equal obligations, for as much fame, or pleasure, as each affords the other.
Every one acknowledges, it would be a wild notion to expect perfection in any work of man: and yet one would think the contrary was taken for granted, by the judgment commonly paft upon Poems. A Critic fuppofes he has done his part, if he proves a writer to have failed in an expreffion, or erred in any particular point: and can it then be wondered at, if the Poets in general seem resolved not to own themselves in any error? For as long as one fide will make no allowances, the other will be brought to no acknowledgments *.
*In the former editions it was thus For as long as one fide defpifes a well meant endeavour, the other will not be fatisfied with a moderate approbation. But the author altered it, as these words were rather a confe quence from the conclufion he would draw, than the conclufion itself, which he has now inferted.
I am afraid this extreme zeal on both fides is illplaced; Poetry and Criticifm being by no means the univerfal concern of the world, but only the affair of idle men who write in their clofets, and of idle men who read there...
Yet fure upon the whole, a bad Author deferves better ufage than a bad Critic: for a Writer's endeavour, for the most part, is to please his Readers, and he fails merely through the misfortune of an ill judgment; but fuch a Critic's is to put them out of humor; a defign he could never go upon without both that and an ill temper.
I think a good deal may be faid to extenuate the fault of bad poets. What we call a Genius, is hard, to be diftinguifhed by a man himself, from a ftrong inclination and if his genius be ever fo great, he cannot at first difcover it any other way, than by giving way to that prevalent propenfity which renders him the more liable to be mistaken. The only method he has, is to make the experiment by writ ing, and appealing to the judgment of others: now if he happens to write ill (which is certainly no fin in itfelf) he is immediately made an object of ridicule. I wish we had the humanity to reflect that even the worst authors might, in their endeavour to please us, deferve fomething at our hands. We have no cause to quarrel with them but for their obftinacy in perfifting to write; and this too may admit of alleviating circumftances. Their particular friends may be either ignorant, or infincere; and the rest of the world in general is too well bred to fhock them with a truth, which generally their Bookfellers are the first that inform them of. This happens not till they have spent too much of their time, to apply to any profeffion which might better fit their talents; and till fuch talents as they have are fo far difcredited as to be but of finall fervice to them. For (what is the hardeft cafe imaginable)
the reputation of a man generally depends upon the firft fteps he makes in the world, and people will establish their opinion of us, from what we do at that feafon when we have leaft judgment to direct us.
On the other hand, a good Poet no fooner communicates his works with the fame defire of infor mation, but it is imagined he is a vain young creature given up to the ambition of fame; when per-> haps the poor man is all the while trembling with the fear of being ridiculous. If he is made to hope he may please the world, he falls under very unlucky circumftances: for, from the moment he prints, he must expect to hear no more truth, than if he were a Prince, or a Beauty. If he has not very good fenfe (and indeed there are twenty men. of wit, for one man of fenfe) his living thus in a courfe of flattery may put him in no small danger of becoming a Coxcomb: if he has, he will confequently have fo much diffidence as not to reap any great fatisfaction from his praise; fince, if it be given to his face, it can scarce be distinguished from flattery, and if in his abfence, it is hard to be certain of it. Were he fure to be commended by the beft and most knowing, he is as fure of being envied by the worst and most ignorant, which are the majority; for it is with a fine Genius as with a fine fafhion, all thofe are difpleased at it who are not able to follow it: and it is to be feared that esteem will feldom do any man so much good, as ill-will does him harm. Then there is a third clafs of people who make the largest part of mankind, thofe of ordinary or indifferent capacities; and these (to a man) will hate, or fufpect him: a hundred honeft Gentle men will dread him as a Wit, and a hundred innocent Women as a Satirift. In a word, whatever be his fate in Poetry, it is ten to one but he up all the reasonable aims of life for it. indeed fome advantages accruing from a
must give There are ́ Genius to Poetry,