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THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE.
AM inclined to think that both the writers of | ill judgment; but such a critic's is to put them not a little unreasonable in their expectations. without both that and an ill temper. The first seem to fancy the world must approve whatever they produce, and the latter to imagine I think a good deal may be said to extenuate the that authors are obliged to please them at any fault of bad poets. What we call a genius, is hard rate. Methinks, as on the one hand, no single man to be distinguished, by a man himself, from a strong is born with a right of controlling the opinions of inclination, and if his genius be ever so great, all the rest; so, on the other, the world has no he cannot at first discover it any other way, than title to demand, that the whole care and time of by giving way to that prevalent propensity which any particular person should be sacrificed to its renders him the more liable to be mistaken. The entertainment. Therefore I cannot but believe only method he has is to make the experiment that writers and readers are under equal obliga- by writing, and appealing to the judgment of tions for as much fame, or pleasure, as each af- others : now if he happens to write ill (which is fords the other.
certainly no sin in itself) he is immediately made
an object of ridicule. I wish we had the humanity Every one acknowledges, it would be a wild no to reflect that even the worst authors might, in tion to expect perfection in any work of man: and their endeavour to please us, deserve something yet one would think the contrary was taken for at our hands. We have no cause to quarrel with granted, by the judgment commonly passed upon them but for their obstinacy in persisting to poems. A critic supposes he has done his part, write; and this too may admit of alleviating if he proves a writer to have failed in an expres- circumstances. Their particular friends may be sion, or erred in any particular point: and can it either ignorant or insincere ; and the rest of the then be wondered at, if the poets in general seem world in general is too well-bred to shock them resolved not to own themselves in any error with a truth, which generally their booksellers For as long as one side will make no allowances, are the first that inform them of. This happens the other will be brought to no acknowledge- not till they have spent too much of their time to ments.
apply to any profession which might better fit
their talents ; and till such talents as they have I am afraid this extreme zeal on both sides are so far discredited as to be but of small service is ill placed ; poetry and criticism being by no to them. For (what is the hardest case imaginable) means the universal concern of the world, but the reputation of a man generally depends upon only the affair of idle men who write in their clo- the first steps he makes in the world ; and people sets, and of idle men who read there.
will establish their opinion of us, from what we
do at that season when we have least judgment to Yet sure, upon the whole, a bad author deserves direct us. better usage than a bad critic ; for a writer's endeavour, for the most part, is to please his readers, On the other hand, a good poet no sooner comand he fails merely through the misfortune of an municates his works with the same desire of in