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CONCERNING OUR POET AND HIS WORKS. M. SCRIBLERUS LECTORI S.

BEFORE we present thee with our Exercitations on

this most delectable Poem, (drawn from the many volumes of our adverfaria on modern Authors,) we shall here, according to the laudable ufage of editors, collect the various judgments of the learned concerning our Poet; various, indeed, not only of different au thors, but of the fame author at different seasons. Nor fhall we gather only the Teftimonies of fuch eminent wits as would of course descend to posterity, and confequently be read without our collection; but we fhall likewife, with incredible labour, feek out for divers others which, but for this our diligence, could never, at the distance of a few months, appear to the eye of the most curious. Hereby thou mayst not only receive the delectation of variety, but also arrive at a more certain judgment, by a grave and circumfpect comparison of the witnefles with each other, or of each with himfelf. Hence, alfo, thou wilt be enabled to draw reflections not only of a critical, but a moral nature, by being let into many particulars of the perfon as well as genius, and of the fortune as well as merit, of our Author: in which, if I relate fome things of little concern, peradventure, to thee, and some of as little even to him, I intreat thee to confider how minutely all true critics and commentators are wont to infift upon fuch, and how material they feem to themselves, if to none other. Forgive me, gentle Reader, if (following learned example) I, ever and anon, become tedious; allow me to take the fame pains to find whether my Author were good or bad, well or ill-natur'd, modeft or arrogant, as another; whether his author was fair or brown, short or tall, or whether he wore a coat or a cassock.

We purposed to begin with his life, parentage, and education; but as to thefe even his contemporaries

do

One faith he was educated

do exceedingly differ. at home; another, that he was bred at St. Omer's by Jefuits; a third, not at St. Omer's, but at Oxford; a fourth, that he had no univerfity education at all. Thofe who allow him to be bred at home differ as much concerning his tutor: one faith § he was kept by his father on purpose; a fecond,** that he was an itinerant prieft; a third,ff that he was a parfon: one I calleth him a fecular clergyman of the Church of Rome; another, a monk. As little do they agree about his father, whom one fuppofeth, like the father of Hefiod, a tradefman or merchant; another,† a husbandman; another, a hatter, &c. Nor has an author been wanting to give our Poet such a father as Apuleius hath to Plato, Jamblicus to Pythagoras, and divers to Homer, namely, a dæmon: for thus Mr. Gildon : "Certain it is that his origi"nal is not from Adam, but the devil; and that he "wanteth nothing but horns and tail to be the exact "refemblance of his infernal father." Finding, therefore, fuch contrariety of opinions, and (whatever be ours of this fort of generation) not being fond to enter into controverfy, we fhall defer writing the Life of our Poet till authors can determine among themselves what parents or education he had, or whether he had any education or parents at all.

Proceed we then to what is more certain, his Works; though not lefs uncertain the judgments concerning them; beginning with his Effay on Criticisin, of which hear first the most ancient of critics, MR.

Giles Jacob's Lives of the Poets, vol. II. in his life. + Dennis's Reflections on the Effay on Criticifm, p. 4. Dunciad Diffected, p. 4. Guardian, No. 40. Jacob's Lives &c. vol. II. **Dunciad Diffected, p. 4. ft Farmer P. and his fon. ‡‡ Dunciad Diffected. Il Characters of the Times, p. 45. Female Dunciad, p. ult. † Dunciad Diffected. Roome, Paraphrafe on the 4th of Genefis, printed 1729. Character of Mr. P. and his writings, in a letter to a friend, printed for S. Popping, 1716, p. 10. Curl, in his Key to the Dunciad, (first edit. faid to be printed for A Dodd,) in the tenth page, declared Gildon to be the author of that libel; though in the fubfequent editions of his Key be left out this affertion, and affirmed (in the Curliad, p. 4. and 8.) that it was written by Dennis only.

MR. JOHN DENNIS.

"His precepts are falfe or trivial, or both; his "thoughts are crude and abortive; his expreffions "abfurd, his numbers harth and unmufical, his "rhymes trivial and common.-Instead of majesty, 66 we have fomething that is very mean; inftead of "gravity, fomething that is very boyish; and instead "of perfpicuity and lucid order, we have but too of"ten obfcurity and confufion." And in another place; "What rare Numbers are here! Would not << one swear that this youngfter had espoused fome an"tiquated Mufe, who had sued out a divorce from "fome fuperannuated finner, upon account of impo"tence, and who being poxed by her former spouse, "has got the gout in her decrepit age, which makes "her hobble fo damnably ?"*

No lefs peremptory is the cenfure of our hypercritical historian,

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MR. OLDMIXON.

"I dare not fay any thing of the Effay on Criti"cifm in verfe; but if any more curious reader has "difcovered in it fomething new, which is not in Dryden's Prefaces, Dedications, and his Effay on "Dramatic Poetry, not to mention the French critics, "I should be very glad to have the bonefit of the dif covery."+

He is followed (as in fame, fo in judgment) by the modeft and fimple-minded

MR. LEONARD WELSTED,

who, out of great refpect to our Poet, not naming him, doth yet glance at his Effay, together with the Duke of Buckingham's, and the Criticisms of Dryden, and of Horace, which he more openly taxeth: "As "to the numerous treatises, effays, arts, &c. both in

*Reflections Critical and Satirical on a Rhapfody, called, An Effay on Criticifm, printed for Bernard Lintot, octavo.

Effay on Criticiim in proie, octavo, 1728, by the author of the Cri tical History of England.

Preface to his Poems, p. 18, 53.

"verfe and profe, that have been written by the Mo"derns on this ground-work, they do but hackney "the fame thoughts over again, making them ftill "more trite. Most of their pieces are nothing but a "pert, infipid heap of common place. Horace has, ❝even in his Art of Poetry, thrown out feveral things which plainly fhew he thought an Art of Poetry "was of no ufe, even while he was writing one." To all which great authorities we can only oppofe that of

MR. ADDISON.

* The Art of Criticifm," faith he, "which was published fome months fince, is a masterpiece in its kind. The obfervations follow one another like thofe in Horace's Art of Poetry, without that "methodical regularity which would have been re

quifite in a profe writer. They are some of them "uncommon, but fuch as the reader muft affent to, "when he fees them explained with that ease and per"fpicuity in which they are delivered. As for thofe

which are the most known, and the most received, they are placed in so beautiful a light, and illuftrated with fuch apt allufions, that they have in them "all the graces of novelty, and make the reader, "who was before acquainted with them, ftill more "convinced of their truth and folidity. And here "give me leave to mention what Monf. Boileau has

fo well enlarged upon in the Preface to his Works; "that wit and fine writing doth not confift fo much "in advancing things that are new, as in giving "things that are known an agreeable turn. It is im"poffible for us, who live in the latter ages of the "world, to make observations in criticifm, morality, "or any art or science, which have not been touched 66 upon by others; we have little elfe left us but to re

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prefent the common sense of mankind in more strong, "more beautiful, or more uncommon lights. If area❝der examines Horace's Art of Poetry, he will find

*Spectator, No. 253.

"but few precepts in it which he may not meet with in "Ariftotle, and which were not commonly known

by all the poets of the Auguftan age. His way of ❝ expreffing and applying them, not his invention of « them, is what we are chiefly to admire.

“Longinus, in his Reflections, has given us the "fame kind of fublime which he obferves in the feve"ral paffages that occafioned them. I cannot but "take notice that our English Author has, after the « fame manner, exemplified feveral of the precepts " in the very precepts themselves." He then produces fome inftances of a particular beauty in the Numbers, and concludes with faying, that, "There are three poems in our tongue of the fame nature, and each "a mafter piece in its kind; the Effay on Tranfla"ted Verfe, the Effay on the Art of Poetry, and the 66 Effay on Criticifin.

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Of Windfor Forest positive is the judgment of affirmative.

MR. JOHN DENNIS.

"That it is a wretched rhapfody, impudently (6 writ in emulation of the Cooper's Hill of Sir John Denham: the author of it is obfcure, is "ambiguous, is affected, is temerarious, is barba

66

4 rous.

But the author of the Dispensary,

DR. GARTH,

in the Preface to his poem of Claremont †, differs from this opinion; "Thofe who have seen these two "excellent poems of Cooper's Hill and Windfor Fo

reft, the one written by Sir John Denham, the other " by Mr. Pope, will fhew a great deal of candour if "they approve of this."

Of the Epiftle of Eloifa, we are told by the obfcure writer of a poem called Sawney, "That because a "Prior's Henry and Emma charmed the finest tastes, "our Author writ his Eloife in oppofition to it, but "forgot innocence and virtue: if you take away

* Letter to B. B. at the end of the Remarks on Pope's Homer, 1717. Printed 1728, p. 12.

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