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pense of books, and makes us pay an high price for trifles, and often for absurdities. I will only add, with Sir Henry Saville, that various lections are now grown so voluminous, that we begin to value the first editions of books as most correct, because least corrected.
There are other critics who think themselves obliged to see no imperfections in their author: from 'the moment they undertake his cause, they look upon him as a lover upon his mistress; Of partial he has no faults, or his very faults improve into beauties: this, indeed, is a well-natured Critics. errour, but still blameable, because it misguides the judgment. Such critics act no less erroneously, than a judge who should resolve to acquit a person, whether innocent or guilty, who comes before him upon his trial. It is frequent for the partial critic to praise the work as he likes the author; he admires a book as an antiquary a medal, solely from the impression of the name, and not from the intrinsic value: the copper of a favourite writer shall be more esteemed than the finest gold of a less acceptable author: for this reason many persons have chosen to publish their works without a name, and by this method, like Apelles, who stood unseen behind his own Venus, have received a praise, which perhaps might have been denied if the author had been visible.
But there are other critics who act a contrary part, and condemn all as criminals whom they try: they dwell only on the faults of an author, and endeavour to raise a reputation by disOf envious praising every thing that other men praise; they have an antipathy to a shining character, and mali- like some animals, that hate the Sun only because of its brightness: it is a crime with cious Cri- them to excel; they are a kind of Tartars in learning, who, seeing a person of distinguished bics. qualifications, immediately endeavour to kill him, in hopes to attain just so much merit as they destroy in their adversary. I never look into one of these critics but he puts me in mind of a giant in romance: the glory of the giant consists in the number of the limbs of men whom he has destroyed; that of the critic in viewing
If ever he accidentally deviates into praise, he does it that his ensuing blame may fall with the greater weight; he adorns an author with a few flowers, as the ancients those victims which they were ready to sacrifice: he studies criticism as if it extended only to dispraise; a practice, which, when most suc cessful, is least desirable. A painter might justly be thought to have a perverse imagination, who should delight only to draw the deformities and distortions of human nature, which, when executed by the most masterly hand, strike the beholder with most horrour. It is usual with envious critics to attack the writings of others, because they are good; they constantly prey upon the fairest fruits, and hope to spread their own works by uniting them to those of their adversary. But this is like Mezentius in Virgil, to join a dead carcass to a living body: and the only effect of it, to fill every well-natured mind with detestation: their malice becomes impotent, and, contrary to their design, they give a testimony of their enemy's merit, and show him to be an hero by turning all their weapons against him such critics are like dead coals; they may blacken, but cannot burn. These writers bring to my memory a passage in the Iliad, where all the inferior powers, the Plebs Superûm, or rabble of the sky, are fancied to unite their endeavours to pull Jupiter down to the Earth: but by the attempt they only betray their own inability; Jupiter is still Jupiter, and by their unavailing efforts they manifest his superiority.
Modesty is essential to true criticism: no man has a title to be a dictator in knowledge, and the sense of our own infirmities ought to teach us to treat others with humanity. The envious critic ought to consider, that if the authors be dead whom he censures, it is inhumanity to trample upon their ashes with insolence; that it is cruelty to summon, implead, and condemn them with rigour and animosity, when they are not in a capacity to answer his unjust allegations. If the authors be alive, the common laws of society oblige us not to commit any outrage against another's reputation; we ought modestly to convince, not injuriously insult; and contend for truth, not victory; and yet the envious critic is like the tyrants of old, who thought it not enough to conquer, unless their enemies were made a public spectacle, and dragged in triumph at their chariot-wheels: but what is such a triumph but a barbarous insult over the calamities of their fellow-creatures? the noise of a day, purchased with the misery of nations? However, I would not be thought to be pleading for an exemption from criticism; I would only have it circumscribed within the rules of candour and humanity: writers may be told of their errours, provided it be with the decency and tenderness of a friend, not the malice and passion of an enemy; boys may be whipped into sense, but men are to guided with reason.
If we grant the malicious critic all that he claims, and allow him to have proved his adversary's dulness, and his own acuteness, yet, as long as there is virtue in the world, modest dulness will be preferable to learned arrogance. Dulness may be a misfortune, but arroganee is a crime; and where is the mighty advantage, if, while he discovers more learning, he is found to have less virtue than his adversary? and, though he be a better critic, yet proves himself to be a worse man? Besides, no one is to be envied the skill in finding such faults as others are so dull as to mistake for beauties. What advantage is such a quicksightedness even to the possessors of it? It makes them difficult to be pleased, and gives them pain, while others receive a pleasure: they resemble the second-sighted people in Scotland, who are fabled to see more than other persons; but all the benefit they reap from this privilege, is to discover objects of horrour, ghosts, and apparitions.
But it is time to end, though I have too much reason to enlarge the argument for candour in criticism, through a consciousness of my own deficiency: I have in reality been pleading my own cause, that, if I appear too guilty to obtain a pardon, I may find so much mercy from my judges, as to be condemned to suffer without inhumanity. But whatever be the fate of these works, they have proved of use to me, and been an agreeable amusement in a constant solitude. Providence has been pleased to lead me out of the great roads of life, into a private path; where, though we have leisure to choose the smoothest way, yet we are all sure to meet many obstacles in the journey: I have found poetry an innocent companion, and support from the fatigues of it; how long, or how short, the future stages of it are to be, as it is uncertain, so it is a folly to be over solicitous about it; he that lives the longest, has but the small privilege of creeping more leisurely than others to his grave; what we call living, is in reality but a longer time in dying: and if these verses prove as short-lived as their author, it is a loss not worth regretting: they only die, as they were born, in obscurity.
With terrour cloth'd, he downward flew, And wither'd half the nations with a view; Through half the nations of th' astonish'd Earth He scatter'd war, and plagues, and dearth! And when he spoke,
The everlasting hills from their foundations shook; The trembling mountains, by a lowly nod,
With reverence struck, confess'd the God:
They through the tents of Cushan ran,
The rains pour down, the lightnings play,
I see his sword wave with redoubled ire!
When through the mighty flood
What ail'd the rivers that they backward fled.?
Thou mighty Flood! displeas'd at thee?-
The deity in all his equipage of war;
The opening deeps their gulphs unfold?
Void of fountain, void of rain, Oppose their burning coasts in vain! See! the great prophet stand, Waving his wonder-working wand! The stubborn rock feels the Almighty blow! He strikes the stubborn rock, and lo! His stony entrails burst, and rushing torrents flow. Then did the Sun his fiery coursers stay, And backward held the falling day ;
But why, ah! why, O Sion, reigns
Lo! the field with millions swarms!
I hear their shouts! their clashing arms!
With more than mortal rage!-
What pangs for thee I feel!
Ah! how art thou become the Pagan's scorn, Lovely, unhappy Israel!
A shivering damp invades my heart,
A trembling horrour shoots through every part;
Nor can even Sickness, which disarms All other nymphs, destroy your charms; A thousand beauties you can spare, And still be fairest of the fair.
But see! the pain begins to fly; Though Venus bled, she could not die: See the new Phenix point her eyes, And lovelier from her ashes rise: Thus roses, when the storm is o'er, Draw beauties from th' inclement shower.
Welcome, ye Hours! which thus repay
And yet how well did she sustain,
Now in her cheeks, and radiant eyes,
Thus when the silent grave becomes Pregnant with life, as fruitful wombs; When the wide seas, and spacious earth, Resign us to our second birth;
Our moulder'd frame, rebuilt, assumes
ON HER APRON EMBROIDERED WITH ARMS AND
THE listening trees Amphion drew
To dance from hills, where once they grew:
Behold your own creation rise,
But say, amid the softer charms
But cruel you, who thus employ
The lovely Flora paints the Earth, And calls the morning flowers to birth: But you display a power more great; She calls forth flowers, but you create.