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C Ο Ν Τ Ε Ν Τ S
E S S A Y ON CRITICIS M.
HAT ’tis as great a fault to judge ill, as to
write ill, and a more dangerous one to the public.
2. The variety of men's Taftes; of a true Tafte, how rare to be found.
3. That most men are born with some Tafte, but spoiled by false education.
4. The multitude of Critics, and causes of them.
5. That we are to study our own Taste, and know the limits of it.
6. Nature the beit guide of Judgment.
7. Improv’d by Art, and Rules, which are but methodiz'd Nature.
8. Rules deriv'd from the Practice of the ancient Poets.
9. That therefore the Ancients are necessary to be study'd by a Critic, particularly Homer and Virgil.
10. Of Licenses, and the use of them by the Ancients, 11. Reverence due to the Ancients, and praise of them,
PART II. Ver. 204, &c. Causes hind'ring a true Judgment; 1. Pride. 2. Imperfe&t Learning. 3. Judging by parts, and not by the whole : Critics in Wit, Language, Versification, only. 4. Being too hard to please, or too apt to admire. 5. Too much Love to a Sect to the Ancients or Moderns. 6. Prejudice, or Prevention. 7. Singularity. 8. Inconstancy. 9. Partiality. 10. Envy. Against Envy, and in praise of Good-nature. When Severity is chiefly to be used by Critics ? Against Immorality and Obscenity,
PART III. Ver. 565, &c. Rules for the Conduct of Manners in a Critic. Candour, Modesty, Good-breeding, Sincerity and Freedom of Advice. When one's Counsel is to be restrain'd? Character of an incorrigible Poet.-And of an impertinent Critic. The Character of a good Critic. - The History of Criticism, and Characters of the best Critics. Aristotle, Horace, Dionysius, Petronius, Quintilian, Longinus. Of the Decay of Criticism, and its Revival.-Erasmus, Vida, Boileau, Lord Roscommon, &c.
IS hard to say, if greater want of skill
Appear in writing or in judging ill;
* This Essay may juftly be esteemed as a pattern of composition in the didactic way. It was not only admired by every candid critic of taste and judgment at home, but its merit diffused itself abroad, where it was so highly esteemed, that it was translated into French verse by General Hamilton. It was afterwards trandated into French by other hands; and several versionsof it have since appeared in the Latin tongue. It was translated into Latin by Dr. Kirkpatrick, a gentleman well known in the literary world; also by Mr. Smart. There was a Latin version of it likewiłe made by an unfortunate man who was executed for high treason relating to the coin, whose name, says Mr. Ruffhead, I therefore suppress.
We cannot omit making an extract from ile Esay on thc Genius and Writings of Mr. Pope. Thae ingenious author observes, that “Du Bos fixes the period of time, at which, generally speaking, the poets and the painters have arrived at as high a pitch of perfection as their geniuses will "permit, to be the age of thirty, or a few years more or less. Virgil was near
'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none
Yet if we look more closely, we shall find
thirty when he composed his first Eclogue. Horace was a grown man whee he began to be talked of as a poet at Rome, having been formerly engaged in a military life. Racine was about the same age when his ANDROMACHE, which may be regarded as his first good tragedy, was played. Corneille was more than thirty when his Crd appeared. Despreaux was full thirty when he published his satires, such as we now have of them. Moliere was full forty when he wrote the first of those comedies on which his reputation is founded. But to excel in this species of composition, it was not sufficient for Molicre to be only a great poet; it was necessary for him to gain a tllorough knowledge of men and the world, which is feldom attained so early in life; but without which the best poet would be able to write but indifferent comedies. Congreve, however, was but nineteen when he wrote the OLD BACHELOR. Raphael was about thirty years old when he displayed the beauty and fublimity of his genius in the Vaticàn; for it is there we behold the first of his works that are worthy the great name he at present fo deservedly possesses. When Shakespear wrote his LEAR, Milton his PARADISE Lost, Spenser his Fairy QUEEN, and Dryden his Music ODE, they had all exceeded this middle age of man."
Froin this short review it appears, that few pocts ripened fo early as Pope, who was under twenty years of age when he wrote this Essay.
Each burns alike, who can, or cannot write,
30 Or with a Rival's, or an Eunuch's spite. All fools have still an itching to deride, And fain would be upon the laughing fide. If Mævius scribble in Apollo's fpite, There are who judge still worse than he can write, 35 Some have at first for Wits, then Poets past, Turn'd Crities next, and prov'd plain fools at last. Some neither can for Wits nor Critics pass, As heavy múles are neither horse 'nor afs. Those half-learn'd witlings, num'rous in our ifle, 40 As half-form'd infects on the banks of Nile; Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call, Their generation's so equivocal : To tell 'em would a hundred tongues require, Or one vain wit's, that might a hundred tire: 45
But you who seek to give and merit fame, And justly beár á critic's noble name, Be sure yourself and your own reach to know, How far your genius, taste, and learning go ; Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet, 50 And mark that point where sense and dulness meet. Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit, And wisely curb'd proud man's pretending wit. As on the land while here the Ocean gains, In other parts it leaves wide fandy plains ;
55 Thus in the soul while memory prevails, The folid pow'r of understanding fails; Where beams of warm imagination play, The memory's soft figures melt away. One science only will one genius fit;
60 So vaft is art, so narrow human wit:: Not only bounded to peculiar arts, But oft' in those confin'dito single parts. Like Kings we lose the conquests gain'd before, By vain àmbition still to make them more; Each might his sev'ral province well command, Would all but stoop to what they understand, VOL. I.