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can hope, is but to be read in one island, and to be thrown afide at the end of one age.
All that is left us is to recommend our productions by the imitation of the antients: and it will be found true, that, in every age, the highest character for fenfe and learning has been obtained by thofe who have been moft indebted to them. For, to fay truth, whatever is very good fenfe, must have been common fenfe in all times; and what we call learning, is but the knowledge of the fenfe of our predeceffors. Therefore they who say our thoughts are not our own, because they resemble the antients, may as well fay our faces are not our own, because they are like our fathers: and indeed it is very unreasonable, that people fhould expect us to be scholars, and yet be angry to find us so.
I fairly confess that I have ferved myself all I could by reading; that I made ufe of the judgment of authors dead and living; that I omitted no means in my power to be informed of my errors, both by my friends and enemies: but the true reason these pieces are not more correct, is owing to the confideration how short a time they and I have to live: one may be ashamed to confume half one's days in bringing fenfe and rhyme together; and what critic can be fo unreasonable, as not to leave a man time enough for any more ferious employment, or more agreeable amusement ?
The only plea I fhall use for the favour of the public, is, that I have as great a respect for it, as moft authors have for themselves; and that I have facrificed much of my own felf-love for its fake, in preventing not only many mean things from feeing the light, but many which I thought tolerable. I would not be like those authors, who forgive themselves fome particular lines for the fake of a whole poem, and, vice verfa, a whole poem for the fake of fome particular lines. I believe, no one qualification is fo likely to make a good writer, as the power of rejecting his own thoughts; and it must be this (if (if any thing) that can give me a chance to be one.
For what I have publifhed, I can only hope to be pardoned; but for what I have burned, I deserve to be praised. On this account the world is under fome obligation to me, and owes me the juftice in return, to look upon no verses as mine that are not inferted in this collection. And perhaps nothing could make it worth my while to own what are really fo, but to avoid the imputation of fo many dull and immoral things, as partly by malice, and partly by ignorance, have been ascribed to me. I muft further acquit myself of the presumption of having lent my name to recommend any mifcellanies, or works of other men ; a thing I never thought becoming a person who has hardly credit enough to answer for his
In this office of collecting my pieces, I am altogether uncertain, whether to look upon myself as a man building a monument, or burying the dead.
If time fhall make it the former, may these poems (as long as they laft) remain as a testimony that their author never made his talents fubfervient to the mean and unworthy ends of party or felf-intereft; the gratification of public prejudices or private paffions; the flattery of the undeferving, or the infult of the unfortunate. If I have written well, let it be confidered that it is what no man can do without good fenfe, a quality that not only renders one capable of being a good writer, but a good man. And if I have made any acquifition in the opinion of any one under the notion of the former, let it be continued to me under no other title than that of the latter.
But if this publication be only a more folemn funeral of my remains, I defire it may be known that I die in charity, and in my fenfes; without any murmurs against the juftice of this age, or any mad appeals to pofterity. I declare I fhall think the world in the right, and quietly fubmit to every truth which time fhall difcover to the prejudice of these writings; not fo much, as wifhing fo irrational a thing, as that every body fhould be deceived merely for my credit. However, I defire it may then
be confidered, That there are very few things in this collection which were not written under the age of five and twenty fo that my youth may be made (as it never fails to be in executions) a cafe of compaffion. That I was never so concerned about my works as to vindicate them in print, believing, if any thing was good, it would defend itself, and what was bad could never be defended. That I used no artifice to raise or continue a reputation, depreciated no dead author I was obliged to, bribed no living one with unjuft praise, infulted no adversary with ill language; or when I could not attack a rival's works, encouraged reports against his morals. To conclude, if this volume perish, let it ferve as a warning to the critics, not to take too much pains for the future to deftroy fuch things as will die of themselves; and a memento mori to fome of my vain cotemporaries the poets, to teach them that, when real merit is wanting, it avails nothing to have been encouraged by the great, commended by the eminent, and favoured by the public in general.
Nov. 10, 1716.
On Mr. POPE and his
DUKE OF BUCKINGHA M.
ITH age decay'd, with courts and bus'nefs tir'd,
But to this Genius, join'd with fo much art,
And yet fo wonderful, fublime a thing,
'Tis great delight to laugh at fome men's ways, But a much greater to give merit praise.