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not permit it:" and another, from whose sentence in matters of taste it has been said there lies not any appeal, remarks: :"Statius hath not borrowed from either of his predecessors, and his poem is so much the worse for it."
Juv. Ah, my dear Statius! such kind of objections are wholly unworthy your notice. Strada, you may remember, in his Prolusions, has assigned to you the topmost station on Parnassus. The censures of Pope and Bossu are indeed the most to be regarded, though I am of opinion that their attack on you was principally occasioned by their predilection and fondness for the celebrated epic writers who had gone before. They considered you merely as a copier.
Stat. I have certainly imitated Virgil in some of his most beautiful passages. I mean not to conceal my obligations to him, but, on the contrary, am proud to acknowledge them.
To copy nature was to copy him.
Yet, even Virgil, you know, has been called a servile imitator; nay, he has by some been styled an absolute plagiary.
Juv. The cry of petty critics. Any man, who may touch upon a matter that has been already treated by an eminent writer, is immediately attacked by the little wits; and, though he may have handled his subject in a manner totally different from his predecessor, he is instantly hailed by them as an imitator, if not a plagiarist. But their ignorance is so very great, that they know not how to make distinctions. Imitation, properly speaking, consists not in a resemblance of subject, but in a resemblance of expression. Nothing could be more absurd, for example, than to call the writer of a comedy an imitator, and for no other reason, than that comedies had been written long before he was in being; and the same observation will hold with respect to every other species of composition.
Stat. Your remark is certainly just: nay, I look upon a successful imitation, even where the original writer's expression is occasionally adopted, to be a capital effort of genius: provided the author imitated be really a distinguished one. It clearly evinces similar and kindred feelings; a congeniality of soul, as I may call it. In a word, an excellent model cannot be too attentively and diligently studied.
Juv. "Common sense directs us to regard resemblances in great writers, not as the pilferings or frugal acquisitions of needy art, but as the honest fruits of genius, the free and liberal bounties of unenvying nature," says a celebrated author; and it is a passage which should be read and attended to by every pretender to the title of critic for, however extraordinary it may appear to such pretenders, it is absolutely necessary that they should read before they write; that is, before they attempt to sport with the fame and reputation of any man,
Stat. True; and it should likewise be remembered, that imitation not unfrequently arises from a desire of trying our strength with an admired original; of disputing with him the palm of genius; for, to say of any one that he has led the way in a particular line of writing, is saying little the literary pupil, if I may be allowed to call him so, or he who copies the style and manner of another, has been often found to surpass his master. The pictures of Raffaëlle and Domenichino are superior to those of the painters who taught them their art.
Juv. The dread of imitation is undoubtedly the stumbling-block of the moderns. Had the same ridiculous notions obtained in former days, many capital productions would now be wanting to us. In fine, with such ideas. no man could ever venture into competition with any one. Emulation would be wholly at a stand.
Stat. The clamour raised against imitation is entirely occasioned by the reprobatory expression of Horace, O imitatores, servum pecus. But I am persuaded that the meaning of that elegant poet is generally misunder
stood. Horace could never think of marking the imitator, the man who boldly stands forth the competitor and rival of another, with the opprobrious epithets of base and servile. No, his intention, without question, is to stigmatize the counterfeit author, he who steals the sentiments, the language, the very words, of an eminent writer; not he who makes choice of that writer's subject or story. In other words, the barefaced and impudent plagiary.
Juv. I am entirely of your opinion, with respect to the expression in question. It is highly improbable that he who had closely imitated an admired poet,-for we are expressly told by Horace himself, that the form or kind of writing in his Satires is exactly the same with that of Lucilius;-it is highly improbable, I say, that such a man should formally set up for the contemner and proscriber of imitators: nay, do we not find, by the difficile est proprie communia dicere, and the publica materies privati juris erit, &c. so happily expounded by a learned prelate, that the poet even advises to imitation on particular subjects, but with the following cautions: 1st. Not to follow the trite, obvious, round of the original work, i. e. not servilely and scrupulously to adhere to its plan or method. 2d. Not to be translators instead of imitators; i. e. if it shall be thought fit to imitate more expressly any part of the original, to do it with freedom and spirit, and without a slavish attachment to the mode of expression.*
Stat. Houdar de la Motte, a very ingenious writer, and one who followed closely on the heels of Horace, appears to have understood the "O imitatores," &c. of that poet exactly in the manner that we have interpreted it. Witness the following lines in his Descente aux Enfers:
Voici la foule téméraire
De ces imitateurs grossiers.
Se parait d'injustes lauriers, &c.
*See "Notes on the Art of Poetry," by Bishop Hurd.
Juv. Truly a case in point. But what think you of the men who maintain that Homer is an imitator, and even a plagiary?
Stat. Homer! You astonish me! I always thought his originality had been generally acknowledged.
Juv. Not by critics and commentators. They, you know, must start objections. Now, some of them have laboured to prove him an imitator, from the truly wonderful discovery that the archetype of his poem is in nature— Stat. Admirable! The language of Mr. Bayes, in the Rehearsal," I despise your Beaumonts and Fletchers, who borrowed all they wrote from nature," &c.
Juv. While others have as boldly asserted that he is a plagiary, from the great improbability, say they, that the Iliad should be the work of an individual, an individual in the situation of Mæonides.
Stat. This, indeed, is in the genuine spirit of modern criticism. This, I think, may be styled the non ultra of cavil and objection. But are such writers ever attended to? Juv. Alas! too often. Recollect the words of your favourite Boileau-he was tolerably acquainted with men and manners :
Ainsi qu'en sots auteurs,
Notre siècle est fertile en sots admirateurs ;
Un sot trouve toujours un plus sot qui l'admire.
Stat. Very consoling to the modern Mæviuses; to the "half-learned witlings" of the day!
Juv. Undoubtedly. But as Pope and Churchill are coming towards us, we will therefore seek out a less frequented place.
SCENE THE ELYSIAN FIELDS.
FREDERICK II. KING OF PRUSSIA, and VOLTAIRE.
Volt. HA! Frederick! welcome to the Elysian Fields ! Fred. Hey-dey! you are strangely familiar with a king. Volt. The king and the beggar are here the same : but surely you have no remains of earthly animosity against me now? Here must every transaction of our former lives be forgotten.
Fred. Ay, but the dignity of my character
Volt. Again! Prithee, step with me to yonder river;
There let us quaff, a long oblivious drink ;
A long oblivion to all worldly affairs.
Fred. I begin to think you honest; and must, therefore, decline your invitation to taste of the Lethean stream; since, in doing it, our ancient friendship might be buried in oblivion with the rest.
Volt. 'Tis nobly said; to pardon offences is truly godlike, it sets you greatly above the condition of a king. Now, as the grenadier observed, at the conclusion of the battle of Torgau, thou art indeed my old Fritz.*
"The king, growing warm, unbuttoned his surtout, and then the soldiers observed a musket-ball fall from it, and, from the holes which were made in his clothes, they also perceived the danger he had encountered: the grenadiers then exclaimed, 'Thou art our own old Fritz; thou partakest every danger with us, and we will die for thee!' Fritz is the diminutive of Frederick, and expressive of familiarity and affection.”— VIE DE FRED. II,