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lafting, while ours are extremely limited both in extent and in duration. A mighty foundation for our pride! when the utmost we can hope, is but to be read in one Island, and to be thrown afide at the end of one Age.
All that is left us is to recommend our productions by the imitation of the Ancients: and it will be found true, that in every age, the highest character for sense and learning has been obtain'd by thofe who have been most indebted to them. For to fay truth, whatever is very good fenfe, muft have been common fense in all times; and what we call Learning, is but the knowlegde of the fenfe of our predeceffors. Therefore they who fay our thoughts are not our own because they resemble the Ancients, may as well fay our faces are not our own, because they are like our Fathers: And indeed it is very unreasonable, that people should expect us to be Scholars, and yet be angry to find us fo.
I fairly confefs that I have ferv'd my felf all I could by reading; that I made use of the judgment of authors dead and living; that I omitted no means in my power to be inform'd of my errors, both by my friends and enemies; and that I expect not to be excus'd in any negligence
on account of youth, want of leifure, or any other idle allegations: But the true reason these pieces are not more correct, is owing to the confideration how short a time they, and I, have to live: One may be ashamed to confume half one's days in bringing fenfe and rhyme together; and what Critic can be fo unreasonable as not to leave a man time enough for any more ferious employment, or more agreeable amusement?
The only plea I shall use for the favour of the publick, is, that I have as great a respect for it, as moft authors have for themselves; and that I have facrificed much of my own felf-love for its fake, in preventing not only many mean things from feeing the light, but many which I thought tolerable. I would not be like thofe Authors, who forgive themselves fome particular lines for the fake of a whole Poem, and vice verfa a whole Poem for the fake of some paricular lines. I believe no one qualification is so likely to make a good writer, as the power of rejecting his own thoughts; and it must be this (if any thing) that can give me a chance to be one. For what I have publish'd, I can only hope to be pardon'd; but for what I have burn'd, I deserve to be prais'd. On this account the world is under fome obliga
tion to me, and owes me the justice in return, to look upon no verses as mine that are not inferted in this collection. And perhaps nothing could make it worth my while to own what are really fo, but to avoid the imputation of so many dull and immoral things, as partly by malice, and partly by ignorance, have been ascribed to me. I muft farther acquit, my felf of the prefumption of having lent my name to recommend any Miscellanies, or Works of other men; a thing I never thought becoming a person who has hardly credit enough to answer for his own.
In this office of collecting my pieces, I am altogether uncertain, whether to look upon my felf as a man building a monument, or burying the dead?
If Time shall make it the former, may these Poems (as long as they laft) remain as a teftimony, that their Author never made his talents fubfervient to the mean and unworthy ends of Party or felf-interest; the gratification of publick prejudices, or private paffions; the flattery of the undeferving, or the infult of the unfortunate. If I have written well, let it be confider'd that 'tis what no man can do without good fenfe, a quality that not only renders one capable of being
a good writer, but a good man.
And if I have made any acquifition in the opinion of any one under the notion of the former, let it be continued
to me under no other title than that of the latter.
But if this publication be only a more folemn funeral of my Remains, I defire it may be known that I die in charity, and in my fenfes; without any murmurs against the justice of this age, or any mad appeals to pofterity. I declare I fhall think the world in the right, and quietly fubmit to every truth which time fhall discover to the prejudice of thefe writings; not fo much as wishing fo irrational a thing, as that every body should be deceiv'd merely for my credit. However, I defire it may then be confider'd, that there are very few things in this collection which were not written under the age of five and twenty: so that my youth may be made (as it never fails to be in Executions) a cafe of compaffion. That I was never fo concern'd about my works as to vindicate them in print, believing if any thing was good it would defend itfelf, and what was bad could never be defended. That I used no artifice to raise or continue a reputation, depreciated no dead author I was obliged to, brib'd no living one with unjuft praife, infulted no adverfary with ill language; or when I
could not attack a Rival's works, encourag'd reports against his Morals. To conclude, if this volume perish, let it ferve as a warning to the Critics, not to take too much pains for the future to destroy fuch things as will die of themselves; and a Memento mori to fome of my vain cotemporaries the Poets, to teach them that when real merit is wanting, it avails nothing to have been encourag'd by the great, commended by the eminent, and fa. vour'd by the publick in general.
Nov. 10, 1716.