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failings on the plea of his unhappy sickly constitution and the deformity of his person.
Frederick, Prince of Wales, when Pope once fell asleep after dinner in his company, rebuked the officious disquiet of the guests with the observation, "We should respect the infirmities of such a man as Mr. Pope." We, who owe so much to his genius, may well adopt the language of his polite apologist.
In the foremost rank of those who have enriched our literature, his name will always stand conspicuous. For exquisite fancy, and refined wit, accompanied with peculiar felicity of diction and a versification the most melodious under the regulation of a judgment scrupulously severe, he is without a rival. I cannot concur in the doubt, which some have entertained, of the vigour and loftiness of his imagination, believing implicitly in his own assertion, that he voluntarily "stooped to truth, and moralised his song."
Our language is largely indebted to him; and they who can carry his precepts into faithful practice, must surely acknowledge deep obligation to him as a moral teacher.
Would it not then be strange, if I did not seek to make you all familiarly conversant with the thoughts of such a writer? At the same time I would restrict your knowledge of him, as of all other authors, to such of their works, or portions of their works, as are really WORTH YOUR KNOWING. I have expunged nothing in this collection, not one word, that could tend to instruct or amuse you, not one single thought, that any real lover of poetry, any one of those finer spirits, that "glow as they read," would wish to have restored for the edification and refinement of their own, or their children's taste. The occasional indelicacy and coarseness, into which Pope has—it must be admitted, rarely-been betrayed, arose less from the bent of his own disposition, which had in it so much of what was
tender, delicate, and beautiful, than from the tone of the age in which he lived. Swift could not have published in our day what was popular above an hundred years ago; and even the writings of later times, of Sterne, of Smollett, &c. would require a strong correcting hand, before they could be considered fit to meet the eye, and engage the thoughts of the innocent and young of the present time. But let us not, therefore, cast hasty and indiscriminate blame on our predecessors. "L'imperfection de nos peres, loin d'être une regle pour nous, n'est qu'un avertissement de faire ce qu'ils feraient, s'ils etaient en notre place avec nos lumieres c."
To prepare for you such a collection of the works of Pope, as would enable you to become familiar with his excellences, without any uneasy interruption to the free current of your thoughts in their perusal, has been, in the midst of oppressive occupations, a labour of love to me ; and as I think there is no legacy a parent can bequeath his family so rich in value as the means of acquiring wisdom, I have peculiar pleasure in inscribing to you, my children, and in commending to your careful study this edition of Pope's poetical works as an aid to your progress in that first duty of your lives-self-improvement.
W. C. M.
5, CLARENCE TERRACE, REGENT'S PARK,
August 24, 1848.
Schlegel, too, a name to be reverenced by every lover of Shakspeare, in one of his most powerful characters, notices-"les expressions, qui effrayent la pudeur; adding his conviction, "Si Shakspeare avoit écrit de nos jours, sans doute il les auroit adoucies."
I AM inclined to think that both the writers of books, and the readers of them, are generally not a little unreasonable in their expectations. The first seem to fancy the world must approve whatever they produce, and the latter to imagine that authors are obliged to please them at any rate. Methinks, as on the one hand, no single man is born with a right of controlling the opinions of all the rest; so, on the other, the world has no title to demand, that the whole care and time of any particular person should be sacrificed to its entertainment. Therefore I cannot but believe that writers and readers are under equal obligations for as much fame, or pleasure, as each affords the other.
Every one acknowledges, it would be a wild notion to expect perfection in any work of man and yet one would think the contrary was taken for granted, by the judgment commonly passed upon poems. A critic supposes he has done his part, if he proves a writer to have failed in an expression, or erred in any particular point: and can it then be wondered at, if the poets in general seem resolved not to own themselves in any error? For as long as one side will make no allowances, the other will be brought to no acknowledgments.
I am afraid this extreme zeal on both sides is ill placed; poetry and criticism being by no means the universal concern of the world, but only the affair of idle men who write in their closets, and of idle men who read there.
Yet sure, upon the whole, a bad author deserves better usage than a bad critic; for a writer's endeavour, for the most part, is to please his readers, and he fails merely through the misfortune of an ill judgment; but such a critic's is to put them out of humour: a design he could never go upon without both that and an ill temper.
I think a good deal may be said to extenuate the fault of bad poets. What we call a genius, is hard to be distinguished, by a man himself, from a strong inclination; and if his genius be ever so great, he cannot at first discover it any other way, than by giving way to that prevalent propensity which renders him the more liable to be mistaken. The only method he has is to make the experiment by writing, and appealing to the judgment of others: now if he happens to write ill (which is certainly no sin in itself) he is immediately made an object of ridicule. I wish we had the humanity to reflect that even the worst authors might, in their endeavour to please us, deserve something at our hands. We have no cause to quarrel with them but for their obstinacy in persisting to write; and this too may admit of alleviating circumstances. Their particular friends may be either ignorant or insincere; and the rest of the world in general is too wellbred to shock them with a truth, which generally their booksellers are the first that inform them of. This happens not till they have spent too much of their time to apply to any profession which might better fit their talents; and till such talents as they have are so far discredited as to be but of small service to them. For (what is the hardest case imaginable) the reputation of a man generally depends upon the first steps he makes in the world; and people will establish their opinion of us, from what we do at that season when we have least judgment to direct us.
On the other hand, a good poet no sooner communicates his works with the same desire of information, but it is imagined he is a vain young creature given up to the ambition of fame; when perhaps the poor man is all the while trembling with the fear of being ridiculous. If he is made
to hope he may please the world, he falls under very unlucky circumstances; for, from the moment he prints, he must expect to hear no more truth, than if he were a prince or a beauty. If he has not very good sense (and indeed there are twenty men of wit for one man of sense), his living thus in a course of flattery may put him in no small danger of becoming a coxcomb: if he has, he will consequently have so much diffidence as not to reap any great satisfaction from his praise; since, if it be given to his face, it can scarce be distinguished from flattery, and if in his absence, it is hard to be certain of it. Were he sure to be commended by the best and most knowing, he is as sure of being envied by the worst and most ignorant, which are the majority; for it is with a fine genius as with a fine fashion, all those are displeased at it who are not able to follow it: and it is to be feared that esteem will seldom do any man so much good, as ill-will does him harm. Then there is a third class of people, who make the largest part of mankind, those of ordinary or indifferent capacities; and these (to a man) will hate, or suspect him; a hundred honest gentlemen will dread him as a wit, and a hundred innocent women as a satirist. In a word, whatever be his fate in poetry, it is ten to one but he must give up all the reasonable aims of life for it. There are indeed some advantages accruing from a genius to poetry, and they are all I can think of: the agreeable power of selfamusement when a man is idle or alone; the privilege of being admitted into the best company; and the freedom of saying as many careless things as other people, without being so severely remarked upon.
I believe, if any one, early in his life, should contemplate the dangerous fate of authors, he would scarce be of their number on any consideration. The life of a wit is a warfare upon earth; and the present spirit of the learned world is such, that to attempt to serve it (any way) one must have the constancy of a martyr, and a resolution to suffer for its sake. I could wish people would believe, what I am pretty certain they will not, that I have been much less concerned