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he has not very good sense and indeed there are twenty men of wit, for one man of sense) his living thus in a course of Aattery may put him in no small danger of becoming a Coxcomb: if he has, he will consequently have so much diffidence as not to reap any great satisfaction from his praise; fince, if it be given to his face, it can scarce be distinguished from flattery, and if in his absence, it is hard to be certain of it. Were he sure to be commended by the best and most knowing, he is as sure of being envied by the worst and most ignorant, which are the majority; for it is with a fine Genius as with a fine fashion, all those are difpleased at it who are not able to follow it : and it is to be feared that esteem will feldom do any man so much good, as ill-will does him harm. Then there is a third class of people who make the largest part of mankind, those of ordinary or indifferent capacities; and these (to a man) will hate, or suspect him: a hundred honest Gentlemen will dread him as a Wit, and a hundred innocent women as a Satirist. In a word, whatever be his fate in Poetry, it is ten to one but he must give up all the reasonable aims of life for it. There are indeed some advantages accruing from a Genius to Poetry, and they are all I can think of; the agreeable power of self-amusement when a man is idle or alone ; the privilege of being admitted into the best company, and the free. dom of saying as many careless things as other
people, without being so severely remarked upon.
I believe, if any one, early in his life, should contemplate the dangerous fate of authors, he would scarce be of their number on any consideration. The life of a Wit is a warfare upon earth; and the present spirit of the learned world is such, that to attempt to serve it (any way) one must have the constancy of a martyr, and a resolution to suffer for its fake. I could wish people would believe, what I am pretty certain they will not, that I have been much less concerned about Fame than I durst declare till this occasion, when methinks I should find more credit than I could heretofore : since my writings have had their fate already, and it is too late to think of prepossessing the reader in their favour. I would plead it as some merit in me, that the world has never been prepared for these Trifles by Prefaces, biassed by recommendations, dazled with the names of great Patrons, wheedled with finę reasons and pretences, or troubled with excuses. I confess it was want of consideration that made me an author ; I writ because it amused me; I corrected because it was as pleasant to me to correct as to write; and I published because I was told I might please such as it was a credit to please. To what degree I have done this, I am really ignorant; I had too much fondness for my productions to judge of them at first, and too much judgment to be pleased with
them at last. But I have reason to think they can have no reputation which will continue long, or which deserves to do so: for they have always fallen short not only of what I read of others; but even of my own Ideas of Poetry. I
If any one should imagine I am not in earnest, I desire him to reflect, that the Ancients (to say the least of them) had as much Genius as we: and that to take more pains, and employ more time, cannot fail to produce more complete pieces. They constantly apply'd themselves not only to that art, but to that single branch of an art, to which their talent was most powerfully bent; and it was the business of their lives to correct and finish their works for Posterity. If we can pretend to have used the same industry, let us expect the same immortality : Tho' if we took the same care, we 1hould still lie under a further misfortune : they writ in languages that became universal and everlasting, while ours are extremely limited both in extent and in duration. A mighty foundation for our pride! when the utmost we can hope, is but to be read in one Island, and to be thrown aside at the end of one Age.
All that is left us is to recommend our productions by the imitation of the Ancients :, and it will be found true, that, in every age, the highest character for sense and learning has been obtain’d by those who have been most indebted to them. For; to say truth, whatever is very good sense, must
have been common sense in all times; and what we call Learning, is but the knowledge of the sense of our predecessors. Therefore they who say our thoughts are not our own, because they resemble the Ancients, may as well say our faces are not our own, because they are like our Fathers: And indeed it is very unreasonable, that people should expect us to be Scholars, and yet be angry to find us fo.
I fairly confess that I have serv'd myself all I could by reading; that I made use of the judgment of authors dead and living; that I omitted no means in my power to be inform’d 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 consume half one's days in bringing sense and rhyme together; and what Critic can be so unreasonable, as not to leave a man time enough for any more serious employment, or more agreeable amusement
The only plea I shall use for the favour of the public, is, that I have as great a respect for it, as most authors have for themselves; and that I have facrificed much of my own self-love for its like, in preventing not only many mean things from insing the light, but many which I thought tocras's. I would not be like thoseAuthors,who forgive their selves some particular lines for the sake of a w ie them at last. But I have reason to think they can have no reputation which will continuc long, or which deserves to do so: for they have always fallen fort not only of what I read of others, but even of my own Ideas of Poetry. .
If any one should imagine I am not in earnest, I desire him to reflect, that the Ancients (to say the least of them) had as much Genius as we: and that to take more pains, and employ more time, cannot fail to produce more complete pieces. They constantly apply'd themselves not only to that art, but to that single branch of an art, to which their talent was molt powerfully bent; and it was the business of their lives to correct and finish their works for Posterity. If we can pretend to have used the same industry, let us expect the same im mortality : Tho’ if we took the same care, w should still lie under a further misfortune: the writ in languages that became universal and cvei lasting, while ours are extremely limited both i'. extent and in duration. A mighty foundation fi our pride! when the utmost we can hope, is b to be read in one INand, and to be thrown afii at the end of one Age.
All that is left us is to recommend our produ tions by the imitation of the Ancients i, and it w be found true, that, in every age, the highest ch racter for sense and learning has been obtain'd those who have been most indebted to them. F to fry truth, whatever is very good sense, m