Imatges de pÓgina

cept against them. I will only quote Mr. Dryden, and Mr. Milton, and sure these, whom he himself has with so much Justice made English Classics, will be admitted as undoubted Judges.

Mr. Dryden in his Preface to his Fables, the last and perhaps the best of his Works, has these Words, Mr. Hobbs, I say, begins the Praise of Homer, where he should have ended it. He tells us that the firft Beauty of an Epic Poem confifts in Di&ion, that is in the Choice of Words, and Harmony of Numbers; now the words are the Colouring of the Work, which in the Order of Nature is the last to be confider'd. The DESIGN, the DISPOSITION the Manners, and the Thoughts are all before it. Where any of these are wanting or impero felt; so much it wants, and is imperfect in the Imitation of Human Life, which is the very Den finition of a Poem. Words indeed like glaring Colours, are the first Beauties that arise, and strike the Sight ; but if the DRAUGHT be false or lame, the FIGURES ill dispos’d, the MANNERS obscure or inconsistent ; or the Thoughts unnatural, the finest Colours are but daubing, and the Piece is a beautifull Monster at best.

Thus far Mr. Dryden, who plainly puts the. Colouring in the last Place, and so does


not make it that which our Author does, that in which the Poet's Art does chiefly confft, nay he is so far from placing it as the chief Aim and Art of the Poet, that he makes it by far the least considerable.

Let us now hear what Milton says to this Purpose in his Discourse on Education to Mr. Hartlib. I mean not here (says he) the Prosody of a Verse, (which is all that this Author's Art of English Poetry extends to ) which they could not but have met with before among the RUDIMENIS of Grammar, but the sublime Art, which in Aristotle's Poetics, Horace, and the Italian Commentaries of Cafe telvetro, Taslo, Mazzoni and others, teaches what the Laws are of a true Epic Poem, what of a Dramatic, what of a Lyric: What Decorum, which is the grand Masterpiece to observe. This would make them foon perceive what despicable Creatures our common Rimers, and Play-Writers be ; and show them what Religious, what Glorious and Magnificent Ufe might be made of Poetry, both in Divine and Human Things.

Our Opinions and Aims being so very different, it is no wonder that we pursu'd different Methods. And this is fufficient to clear me from interfering with this Gentleman in his Undertaking.

If in the following Book I have oppos’d any other Author, I hope I have always done it with good Manners, and no Man of Candour will take it amiss, that his Opinion if ill grounded be fairly confuted.

I hope the Candid Reader will excuse several Errors of the Press, and those of the Author, which may be imputed to the Writing this Book during a long Fit of Sickness. I need not tell the World, that by Crites I mean Mr. Dennis, his Excellence in Criticism as well as Poetry being so well known.

Among many Errors of the Press, I must take Notice of one, where Grotius is printed for Grævius.

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OUR Letters have of late been full of Com.

plaints, that you can never find me at Home; and that you every Day miss ine at

our ufual Place of Rendezvous. I must plead Guilty to the Indictment; the Fact is too evident against me : For I have been for some time as much estranged from my own Lodgings, as from our common Retreat, where we so frequently, wiili 110 vulgar Pleasure, offer our nioderare Libations to Bacchus, amidst our more plentiful Sacrifices to Apollo. But then I flatter myself with a Pardon from Crites, since his allow'd Merit secures him from Neglect, and, his good Opinion of my Understanding will not permit him to think me so unmindful of my own Improvement and Satisfaction, as wilfully to omit any Opportunity in my Power, of cultivating a Converse with Crites, which every Man of Sense elldeavours to do out of Inclination and Self-Love rightly understood.

But that you may not look on this as a Compliment of the Times, and a lame Excuse for vhat I want fufficient Reasons to justify; I, in this publick Manner, send you a full Account of the Occation of this my long Absence; and the more wiliingly, le

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caufe I fancy it has produc'd something worthy of your Consideration, and meritorious of your most candid Censire. I have, in this time, in the most agreeable Coversation in the World, run throʻthe whole System of Poetical Criticism, in a Manner that must render the Observations and Rules of Poetry far more acceptable to the general Reader, than the Maxims of an Art, which, in their usual dry, and jejune Dress, have been hitherto so little relished by the Town. I know, your old Acquaintance, Mfr. Rapin, seems to confess some Warmth (not to call it Anger) that the Ladies in France have assum'd to themselves a Power and Authority of Deciding the Fate of Tragedy, in that Nation. But this Heat of his seems to be tlie Effect of his Suspicion, that the French Ladies are not qualify'd Judges of a Performance of that high. Nature, on which, perhaps, he would only allow the sivorn Judges of the polite Athenians fairly to determine. Bu?, Crites, the Ladies I thall produce in the following Dialogues, are not such as generally fill the Boxes, and condemn and applaud meerly by Caprice, but such as are equal to the Cause before them, and who appeal to Reason and Nature, in all their im. portant Decifions; and such, I persiade my felf, that Mfr. Rapın wou'd not think tiable to his Refentments.

The familiar and intelligible Manner in whichi, by these Means, Criticisin hac, at last, had the good Fortnue to be treated, I ain confident, will not be disagreeable to you, who confefs fo generous a Desire, that a good Judgment, and five Taste Mhoall spread among all those who will be med:lling in Poetry, either as Readers, Hearers, or Performers.

You have often heard me speak of my Westminster Friend, with such Raptures as his Merits will always justify in all those who have the Happiness to be admitted to a Freedom of Conversation with him, as you shall your self judge, now those troublesome Avocations of Business, which so many Months ra

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