« PreviousContinue »
THE ABBÉ DELILLE
THE VIRGIL OF FRANCE
THIS NEW EDITION
OF THE LIFE
OF THE BRITISH HOMER
BY THE EDITORS
P. J. OTTO, J. DECKER, F. G. LEVRAULT.
REV. JOSEPH WARTON, D.
MY PLEASANT AND RESPECTABLE FRIEND!
N prefixing your name to this volume, I feel and confefs the double influence of an affectionate and of an ambitious defire to honor you and myself. Our loft and lamented Friend GIBBON has told us, I think very truly, in dedicating a juvenile work to his Father, that there are but two kinds of Dedications, which can do honor either to the Patron or the Author-the first arifing from literary esteem, the second from perfonal affection. If either of these two characteristics may be sufficient to give propriety to a Dedication, I have little to apprehend for the present, which has certainly the advantage of uniting the two.
The kind and friendly manner in which you commended the first edition of this Life might
alone have induced me to infcribe a more ample copy of it to that literary veteran, whose applause is fo juftly dear to me. I have additional inducements in recollecting your animated and enlightened regard for the glory of MILTON. It is pleafing to address a sympathetic friend on a subject that interests the fancy and the heart. I remember, with peculiar gratification, the liberality and frankness, with which you lamented to me the extreme feverity of the late Mr. Warton, in defcribing the controverfial writings of Milton. I honor the rare integrity of your mind, my candid friend, which took the part of injured genius and probity against the prejudices of a brother, eminent as a scholar, and entitled alfo, in many points of view, to your love and admiration. I fympathize with you moft cordially in regretting the severity to which I allude, so little to be expected from the general temper of the critic, and from that affectionate spirit, with which he had vindicated the poetry of Milton from the misrepresentations of cold and callous aufterity. But Mr. Warton had fallen into a mistake, which has betrayed other well-difpofed minds into an
unreasonable abhorrence of Milton's profe; I mean the mistake of regarding it as having a tendency to fubvert our exifting government. Can any man juftly think it has such a tendency, who recollects that no government, fimilar to that which the Revolution established for England, existed when Milton wrote. His impaffioned yet difinterested ardor for reformation was excited by those grofs abuses of power, which that new settlement of the state very happily corrected.
Your learned and good-natured brother, my dear friend, was not the only man of learning and good-nature, who indulged a prejudice, that to us appears very extravagant, to give it the gentleft appellation. A literary Paladine (if I may borrow from romance a title of diftinction to honor a very powerful hiftorian) even Gibbon himself, whom we both admired and loved for his literary and for his focial accomplishments, furpaffed, I think, on this topic, the severity of Mr. Warton, and held it hardly compatible with the duty of a good citizen to re-publish, in the present times, the profe of Milton, as he apprehended it might be productive of public evil.