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hot be very agreable to my friend Mater nus: however, I will venture to ask him; what avails the eloquence of his Jafon or Agamemnon? what mortal does it either defend or oblige? Who is it that courts the patronage, or joins the train, of Baffus, that ingenious (or if you think the term more honorable) that illuftrious poet? Eminent as he may be, if his friend, his relation, or himself were involved in any litigated transactions, he would be under the neceffity of having recourse to Secundus, or perhaps to you, my friendb: but by no means, however, as you are a poet, and in order to folicit you to bestow fome verses upon him: for verses he can compofe himfef, fair, it feems, and goodly. Yet after all, when he has at the cost of much time, and many a labored lucubration, fpun out a fingle canto; he is obliged to traverse the whole town in order to collect an audience. Nor can he procure even this compliment, flight as it is, without actually purchafing it: for the hiring a room, erecting a stage, and difperf ing his tickets, are articles which muft neceffarily be attended with some expence.
And let us fuppofe his poem is approve ed: the whole admiration is over in a day or two, like that of a fine flower which dies away without producing any fruit. In a word, it fecures to him neither friend nor patron, nor confers even the most inconfiderable favor upon any fingle creature. The whole amount of his humble gains, is the fleeting pleasure of a clamorous applause! We looked upon it, lately, as an uncommon inftance of generofity in Vefpafian, that he presented Baffus with fifty thousand fefterces b. Honorable, I grant, it is, to poffefs a genius which merits the imperial bounty: but how much more glorious (if a man's circumstances will admit of it) to exhibit in one's own perfon an example of munificence and liberality? Let it be remembered likewife, if you would fucceed in your poetical labors, and produce any thing of real worth in that art, you must retire, as the poets express themselves,
To filent grottoes and fequefter'd groves. That is, you must renounce, the converfa tion of your friends, and every civil: duty
About 400 1. of our money.
of life, to be concealed in gloomy and unprofitable folitude.
If we confider the votaries of this idle art with refpect to fame, that fingle recompence which they pretend to derive, or indeed to feek, from their ftudies; we shall find, they do not by any means enjoy an equal proportion of it with the fons of Oratory. For even the beft poets fall within the notice of but a very fmall proportion of mankind; whilst indifferent ones are univerfally difregarded. Tell me, Maternus, did ever the reputation of the most approved rehearfal of the poetical kind, reach the cognizance even of half the town; much lefs extend itself to diftant provinces? Did ever any foreigner upon his arrival here, inquire after Baffus? Or if he did, it was merely as he would after a picture or a statue; juft to look upon him, and pass on. I would in no fort be understood as difcouraging the pursuit of poetry, in those who have no talents for oratory; if happily they can by that means, amufe their leifure and eftablish a juft character. I look upon every fpecies of Eloquence as venerable and facred; and give her the preference, in whatever Cc 2 guife
guife she may think proper to appear, to any other of her fifter-arts: not only, Maternus, when the exhibits herself in your chosen favorite, the folemn tragedy, or lofty heroic, but even in the pleasant lyric, the wanton elegy, the fevere iambic, the witty epigram, or, in one word, in whatever other habit fhe is pleafed to affume. But (I repeat it again) my complaint is levelled fingly against you; who, defigned as you are by nature for the moft exalted rank of elo
quence, choofe to defert your station, and
nius has already flamed forth, and you have incurred the difpleasure of our fuperiors: not, indeed, for the fake of a friend; That would have been far lefs dangerous; but in support, truly, of Cato! Nor can you offer in excufe, either the duty of your profeffion, justice to your client, or the unguarded heat of debate. You fixed, it should feem, upon this illuftrious and popular fubject with deliberate defign, and as a character that would give weight and authority to your sentiments. You will reply (I am aware)" it was that very circumstance "which gained you fuch univerfal applause, "and rendered you the general topic of dif"courfe." Talk no more then I befeech you, of fecurity and repofe, whilst you thus industriously raise up to yourself fo potent an adversary. For my own part, at least, I am contented with engaging in queftions of a more modern and private nature; wherein, if in defence of a friend I am under a neceffity of taking liberties unacceptable, perhaps, to my fuperiors, the honeft freedom of my zeal will, I trust, not only be execused but applauded.
APER having delivered this with his Cc3 ufual