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raries as might be desirable. This assertion is as false as it is foolish. Homer's glory depended upon his present popularity: he recited,-and without the strongest impression of the moment, who would have gotten the Iliad by heart, and given it to tradition? Ennius, Terence, Plautus, Lucretius, Horace, Virgil, Eschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Sappho, Anacreon, Theocritus, all the great poets of antiquity, were the delight of their contemporaries. The very existence of a poet, previous to the invention of printing, depended upon his present popularity; and how often has it impaired his future fame? Hardly ever. History informs us, that the best have come down to us. The reason is evident: the most popular found the greatest number of transcribers for their MSS.; and that the taste of their contemporaries was corrupt can hardly be avouched by the moderns, the mightiest

* As far as regards the poets of ancient times, this assertion is, perhaps, right; though, if there be any truth in what Ælian and Seneca have left on record, of the obscurity, during their lifetime, of such men as Socrates and Epicurus, it would seem to prove that, among the ancients, contemporary fame was a far more rare reward of literary or philosophical eminence than among us moderns. When the "Clouds" of Aristophanes was exhibited before the assembled deputies of the towns of Attica, these personages, as Ælian tells us, were unanimously of opinion, that the character of an unknown person, called Socrates, was uninteresting upon the stage; and Seneca has given the substance of an authentic letter of Epicurus, in which that philosopher declares that nothing hurt him so much, in the midst of all his happiness, as to think that Greece, -"illa nobilis Græcia," so far from knowing him, had scarcely even heard of his existence. - Epist. 79.

of whom have but barely approached them. Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, and Tasso, were all the darlings of the contemporary reader. Dante's poem was celebrated long before his death; and, not long after it, States negotiated for his ashes, and disputed for the sites of the composition of the Divina Commedia. Petrarch was crowned in the Capitol. Ariosto was permitted to pass free by the public robber who had read the Orlando Furioso. I would not recommend Mr. ** to try the same experiment with his Smugglers. Tasso, notwithstanding the criticisms of the Cruscanti, would have been crowned in the Capitol, but for his death.

"It is easy to prove the immediate popularity of the chief poets of the only modern nation in Europe that has a poetical language, the Italian. In our own, Shakspeare, Spenser, Jonson, Waller, Dryden, Congreve, Pope, Young, Shenstone, Thomson, Johnson, Goldsmith, Gray, were all as popular in their lives as since. Gray's Elegy pleased instantly, and eternally. His Odes did not, nor yet do they please like his Elegy. Milton's politics kept him down; but the Epigram of Dryden, and the very sale of his work, in proportion to the less reading time of its publication, prove him to have been honoured by his contemporaries. I will venture to assert, that the sale of the Paradise Lost was greater in the first four years after its publication than that of The Excursion,' in the same number, with the difference of nearly a century and a half between them of time, and of thousands in point of general readers.

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"It may be asked, why, having this opinion of the

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present state of poetry in England, and having had it long, as my friends and others well know- pcssessing, or having possessed too, as a writer, the ear of the public for the time being-I have not adopted a different plan in my own compositions, and endeavoured to correct rather than encourage the taste of the day. To this I would answer, that it is easier to perceive the wrong than to pursue the right, and that I have never contemplated the prospect of filling (with Peter Bell, see its Preface,) permanently a station in the literature of the country. Those who know me best, know this, and that I have been considerably astonished at the temporary success of my works, having flattered no person and no party, and expressed opinions which are not those of the general reader. Could I have anticipated the degree of attention which has been accorded, assuredly I would have studied more to deserve it. But I have lived in far countries abroad, or in the agitating world at home, which was not favourable to study or reflection; so that almost all I have written has been mere passion, passion, it is true, of different kinds, but always passion: for in me (if it be not an Irishism to say so) my indifference was a kind of passion, the result of experience, and not the philosophy of nature. Writing grows a habit, like a woman's gallantry: there are women who have had no intrigue, but few who have had but one only; so there are millions of men who have never written a book, but few who have written only one. And thus, having written once, I wrote on; encouraged no doubt by the success of the mo

ment, yet by no means anticipating its duration, and I will venture to say, scarcely even wishing it. But then I did other things besides write, which by no means contributed either to improve my writings or my prosperity.

"I have thus expressed publicly upon the poetry of the day the opinion I have long entertained and expressed of it to all who have asked it, and to some who would rather not have heard it; as I told Moore not very long ago, we are all wrong except Rogers, Crabbe, and Campbell.'* Without being old in years, I am in days, and do not feel the adequate spirit within me to attempt a work which should show what I think right in poetry, and must content myself with having denounced what

* I certainly ventured to differ from the judgment of my noble friend, no less in his attempts to depreciate that peculiar walk of the art in which he himself so grandly trod, than in the inconsistency of which I thought him guilty, in condemning all those who stood up for particular " schools" of poetry, and yet, at the same time, maintaining so exclusive a theory of the art himself. How little, however, he attended to either the grounds or degrees of my dissent from him, will appear by the following wholesale report of my opinion, in his " Detached Thoughts:"

"One of my notions different from those of my contemporaries, is, that the present is not a high age of English poetry. There are more poets (soi-disant) than ever there were, and proportionally less poetry.

"This thesis I have maintained for some years, but, strange to say, it meeteth not with favour from my brethren of the shell. Even Moore shakes his head, and firmly believes that it is the grand age of British poesy."

VOL. V.

is wrong. There are, I trust, younger spirits rising up in England, who, escaping the contagion which has swept away poetry from our literature, will recall it to their country, such as it once was and may still be.

“In the mean time, the best sign of amendment will be repentance, and new and frequent editions of Pope and Dryden.

6

"There will be found as comfortable metaphysics and ten times more poetry in the Essay on Man,' than in the Excursion.' If you search for passion, where is it to be found stronger than in the epistle from Eloisa to Abelard, or in Palamon and Arcite ? Do you wish for invention, imagination, sublimity, character? seek them in the Rape of the Lock, the Fables of Dryden, the Ode on Saint Cecilia's Day, and Absalom and Achitophel: you will discover in these two poets only, all for which you must ransack innumerable metres, and God only knows how many writers of the day, without finding a tittle of the same qualities, with the addition, too, of wit, of which the latter have none. I have not, however, forgotten Thomas Brown the Younger, nor the Fudge Family, nor Whistlecraft; but that is not wit —it is humour. I will say nothing of the harmony of Pope and Dryden in comparison, for there is not a living poet (except Rogers, Gifford, Campbell, and Crabbe) who can write an heroic couplet. The fact is, that the exquisite beauty of their versification has withdrawn the public attention from their other excellences, as the vulgar eye will rest more upon the splendour of the uniform than the quality of the

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