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OCCASIONED BY HIS DIALOGUES ON MEDALS.
SEE the wild Waste of all-devouring years!
MR. ADDISON. This was originally written in the year 1715, when Mr. Addison intended to publish his book of Medals; it was some time before he was Secretary of State; but not published till Mr. Tickel's Edition of his works: at which time the verses on Mr. Craggs, which conclude the poem, were added, viz. in 1720.
Notwithstanding the foregoing note is ascribed to Pope, the information it contains is certainly erroneous, as Mr. Addison died on the seventeenth day of June 1719; and consequently Pope could not, in the year 1720, request to share with him in the friendship of Craggs. The fact is, that the six last lines, which afterwards formed the epitaph on Craggs, appear in the epistle to Addison, not as obituary, but as an inscription on a supposed medal of Craggs, and were consequently written whilst both Addison and Craggs were living.
DIALOGUES ON MEDALS.] This treatise on Medals was written by Addison in that pleasing form of composition, so unsuccessfully attempted by many modern authors, Dialogues. In no one species of writing have the Ancients so indisputable a superiority over us. The dialogues of Plato and Cicero, especially the former, are perfect dramas; where the characters are supported with consistency and nature, and the reasoning suited to the characters.
"There are in English three dialogues, and but three," says a
Imperial wonders rais'd on Nations spoil'd,
Where, mix'd with slaves, the groaning martyr toil'd:
learned and ingenious author, who has himself practised this agreeable way of writing, "that deserve commendation, namely, the Moralists in Lord Shaftesbury, Mr. Addison's Treatise on Medals, and the Minute Philosopher of Bishop Berkley." Alciphron did, indeed, well deserve to be mentioned on this occasion; notwithstanding it has been treated with contempt by writers much inferior to Berkley in learning, genius, and taste. Omitting those passages in the fourth dialogue, where he has introduced his fanciful and whimsical opinions about vision, an attentive reader will find that there is scarce a single argument that can be urged in defence of Revelation, but what is here placed in the clearest light, and in the most beautiful diction: In this work there is a happy union of reasoning and imagination. The two different characters of the two different sorts of freethinkers, the sensual and the refined, are strongly contrasted with each other, and with the plainness and simplicity of Euphranor.
These dialogues of Addison are written with that sweetness and purity of style which constitute him one of the first of our prosewriters. The chief imperfection of his Treatise on Medals is, the persons introduced as speakers, in direct contradiction to the practice of the Ancients, are fictitious, not real; for Cynthio, Philander, Palæmon, Eugenio, and Theocles, cannot equally excite and engage the attention of the reader, with Socrates and Alcibiades, Atticus and Brutus, Cowley and Spratt, Maynard and Somers. It is somewhat singular, that so many of the modern dialogue-writers should have failed in this particular, when so many of the most celebrated wits of modern Italy had given them eminent examples of the contrary proceeding, and closely following the steps of the Ancients, constantly introduced living and real persons in their numerous compositions of this sort; in which they were so fond of delivering their sentiments, both on moral and critical subjects; witness the Il Cortegiano of B. Castiglione, the Asolani of P. Bembo, Dialoghi del S. Sperone, and the great Galileo, the Naugerius of Fracastorius, and Lil. Gyraldus de Po
Huge Theatres, that now unpeopled woods,
Perhaps, by its own ruins sav'd from flame,
etis, and many others. In all which pieces the famous and living geniuses of Italy are introduced discussing the several different topics before them.
Warton. "Roma quon
Ver. 2. her own sad Sepulchre] St. Jerome says, dam orbis caput, postea populi Romani sepulchrum." Ver. 2. her own sad Sepulchre]
"O Solyman, for her art thou become
A heap of stones, and to thyself a tomb."
From Sandys's Psalms; one of the most extraordinary productions in verse, that the English language can produce. As a translation, it is infinitely superior to any other, both for fidelity, music, and strength of versification. It was published with Lawes's Airs, which are simple and expressive. I cannot but lament, that such music, and such words, should not be used in our parochial churches, instead of the wretched metre of Sternhold and Hopkins, or the empty and inadequate paraphrases of Tate and Brady, often set to as bad music. Bowles.
Ver. 6. Where mix'd with Slaves, the groaning Martyr toil'd:] Palladio, speaking of the Baths of Dioclesian, says, "Nell' edificatione delle quali, Dioclesiano tenne molti anni 140 mila Christiani a edificarle." Warburton.
Ver. 6. groaning Martyr] Dodwell, in his Dissertationes Cyprianicæ, has undertaken to prove that the number of Martyrs was far less than hath been usually imagined. His opinion is combated by Mosheim in the 5th Chapter of his excellent History of the Church.
That Name the Learn'd with fierce disputes pursue, And give to Titus old Vespasian's due.
Ambition sigh'd: She found it vain to trust The faithless Column, and the crumbling Bust: 20 Huge moles, whose shadow stretch'd from shore to shore,
Their ruins perish'd, and their place no more!
The Medal, faithful to its charge of fame, Through climes and ages bears each form and name: In one short view subjected to our eye Gods, Emp'rors, Heroes, Sages, Beauties, lie. With sharpen'd sight pale Antiquaries pore, Th' inscription value, but the rust adore.
Ver. 18. And give to Titus old Vespasian's due.] A fine insinuation of the want both of taste and learning in Antiquaries; whose ignorance of characters misleads them (supported only by a name) against reason and history. Warburton.
Ver. 19. Ambition sigh'd:] Such short personifications have a great effect. "Silence was pleas'd," says Milton; which personification is taken, though it happens not to have been observed by any of his commentators, from the Hero and Leander of Musæus, v. 280. Warton.
Ver. 35. With sharpen'd sight paie Antiquaries pore,] Microscopic glasses, invented by Philosophers to discover the beauties in
This the blue varnish, that the green endears,
the minuter works of Nature, ridiculously applied by Antiquaries to detect the cheats of counterfeit medals.
Ver. 37. This the blue varnish, that the green endears,] i. e. This
a collector of silver; that, of brass coins.
Ver. 39. To gain Pescennius] The lively and ingenious Young
says, in his 4th Satire,
"How his eyes languish! how his thoughts adore
That painted coat which Joseph never wore!
He shews, on holidays, a sacred pin,
That touch'd the ruff that touch'd Queen Bess's chin." How much wit has been wasted and misplaced in endeavouring to ridicule antiquarians, whose studies are not only pleasing to the imagination, but attended with many advantages to society, especially since they have been improved, as they lately have been, with singular taste and propriety, in elucidating what, after all, is the most interesting and important part of all history-the history of manners! Warton.
Ver. 41. Poor Vadius,] See his history, and that of his Shield, in the Memoirs of Scriblerus. Warburton.
Ver. 43. And Curio, restless, &c.] The Historian Dio has given us a very extraordinary instance of this Virtuoso-taste. He tells us, that one Vibius Rufus, who, in the reign of Tiberius, was the fourth husband to Cicero's widow, Terentia, then upwards of an hundred years old, used to value himself on his being possessed of the two noblest pieces of Antiquity in the world, TULLY'S WIDOW and CESAR'S CHAIR, that Chair in which he was assassinated in full senate. Warburton. Ver. 44. Sighs for an Otho,] Charles Patin was banished from