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THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR ;
THE CRITICAL REMARKS
HUGHES, SPENCE, WARTON, UPTON, AND HURD.
A perfect judge will read each work of wit
With the same spirit that its author writ:
Survey the WHOLE, nor seek slight faults to find
Where nature moves, and rapture warms the mind;
The generous pleasure to be charm'd with wit.
IN NINE VOLUMES.
Printed for Cadell and Davies; Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme;
Ir is a misfortune, as Mr. Waller observes, which attends the writers of English poetry, that they can hardly expect their works should last long in a tongue which is daily changing; that, whilst they are new, envy is apt to prevail against them; and, as that wears off, our language itself fails. Our poets, therefore, he says, should imitate judicious statuaries, that choose the most durable materials; and should carve in Latin or Greek, if they would have their labours preserved for ever.
Notwithstanding the disadvantage he has mentioned, we have two ancient English poets, Chaucer and Spenser, who may, perhaps, be reckoned as exceptions to this remark: these seem to have taken deep root, like old British oaks, and to flourish in defiance of all the injuries of time and weather. The former is, indeed,
SPENSER. VOL. IX.
much more obsolete in his style than the latter; but it is owing to an extraordinary native strength in both that they have been able thus far to survive amidst the changes of our tongue, and seem rather likely, among the curious at least, to preserve the knowledge of our ancient language, than to be in danger of being destroyed with it, and buried under its ruins.
Though Spenser's affection to his master Chaueer led him in many things to copy after him, yet those who have read both will easily observe that these two geniuses were of a very different kind. Chaucer excelled in his characters, Spenser in his descriptions. The first studied humour, was an excellent satirist, and a lively but rough painter of the manners of that rude age in which he lived; the latter was of the serious turn, had an exalted and elegant mind, a warm and boundless fancy, and was an admirable imager of virtues and vices, which was his particular talent. The embellishments of description are rich and lavish in him beyond comparison; and as this is the most striking part of poetry, especially to young readers, I take it to be the reason that he has been the father of more poets among us than any other of our writers; poetry being first kindled in the imagination, which Spenser writes to more than any one, and the season of youth being the most susceptible of the impression. It will not seem strange, therefore, that Cowley,