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observe to you, has advanced some very ingenious and candid remarks touching resemblances in distinguished writers, and which every Aristarchus of the present day would do well to consider.
Cerv. It has been farther observed, and, I think, very elegantly, "The imitator of a style should endeavour to be like the original, not with the same exactness as a picture is like the person represented, but as a child resembles the features of its parent: similem esse te volo quomodo filiam, non quomodo imaginem." The pioneers of literature should attend a little to this;-the engineer should learn the use and management of the petard before he attempts to hoist with it;-imitation is sure to provoke their censure: they exclaim with Horace, “ O imitatores servum pecus," evidently without understanding him; an exclamation, by the way, which I need not here go about to explain, as it has been done already.*
Rab. Criticism can never be properly the employment of boys, though many, I know, have attempted it.—It requires (to say nothing of genius in the matter) a very extensive reading, and which years alone can give. These embyro critics have received a gentle, but, as I take it, a silencing admonition from the admirable Lucian, who, in one of his dialogues, says, "Do you pretend to the art of criticism without any previous study? If so, you must have been presented, like the shepherd, with a branch of laurel from the Muses."
Sterne. This is, indeed, witty; not, I must own, in the expression, but in the thought; since it supposes for a moment, that which in a moment we find to be altogether impossible in human affairs; this, we may observe, is the most excellent kind of wit, as it is entirely free from pun.
Cerv. Right; for though we may certainly repeat with the ancient, "Poeta nascitur non fit," we cannot
* See a preceding Dialogue,
say the same of the critic; with him it is precisely the
Rab. You think we cannot then admit the propriety and justness of Pope's remark in the following lines? Thee, great Longinus, all the Nine inspire,
And fill their critic with a poet's fire.
Sterne. I rather think we may: this is said of the sublimity of his style, of his expression,-an excellence which certainly is born as well with the critic as with the poet; neither, perhaps, can acquire it by mere dint of industry or art.
Cerv. It has been maintained by an author of no little eminence, that "style is genius;" I do not think his definition altogether wrong.-But walk this way; I perceive the shades of two or three philosophers moving towards us; a race of beings not very friendly to wits.
SCENE THE ELYSIAN FIELDS.
WARBURTON, THEOBALD, EDWARDS, and HEATH.
Warb. Он, my unlucky star! No less than three of the hypercritics who have done me the honour to pour a torrent of censure on me for my labours in the fields of literature. Ha! here they come with open mouth. The gall, which formerly flowed from their pens, will now, I imagine, be as plentifully distilled from their lips. Edw. What, Warburton! and have I then caught thee at last-*
"Dr. Warburton had a name sufficient to confer celebrity on those who could exalt themselves into antagonists; and his notes on Shakspeare have
Heath. Gloster! And is it at length permitted me to drag thee before the dread tribunal of this lower world? Thou murderer
Warb. Ah! what means this violence, this rage? I am here in danger of losing-I cannot say my life, indeed; but what is of far more importance to me, my fame, my reputation, in the literary world-that which I won on the earthly globe.
Theob. 'Tis lost already. You are held in very little estimation either as a critic or a philosopher; notwithstanding the endeavours of the learned, elegant, and truly amiable Bishop of Worcester, to give you conse
Warb. I know that malice and envy have long been rankling in your breast, and now you think to give them vent; but, while you hope to mortify me by this your declaration of the world's opinion of my writings (whether just or not), your purpose is unfortunately defeated even by yourself. He cannot be contemptible, you should remember, either as a philosopher or a critic, whom the learned, elegant, and truly amiable Bishop of Worcester has thought proper to commend.
Edw. A palpable hit, Master Theobald. Warburton has you by inversion, as rhetoricians would call it. Your argument against him makes strongly in his favour. Warb. What do I hear? A vindication of me from the mouth of Edwards. This is extraordinary, indeed!
Edw. The wit is sunk into the man of candour. Seriously speaking, I buzzed long about you, but could never sting.
raised a clamour too loud to be distinct. His chief assailants are the authors of 'The Canons of Criticism,' and of the 'Review of Shakspeare's Text;' of whom one ridicules his errors with airy petulance, suitable enough to the levity of the controversy; the other attacks them with gloomy malignity, as if he were dragging to justice an assassin or incendiary. The one stings like a fly, sucks a little blood, takes a gay flutter, and returns for more: the other bites like a viper, and would be glad to leave inflammation and gangrene behind him."-JOHNSON, PREF. TO SHAK.
Warb. You astonish me! this, I own, is a candour that I so greatly love.
Edw. Ha ha! ha!
Warb. Wherefore that intemperate laugh?
Edw. Wherefore? To hear so intemperate a critic as yourself talk of a love of candour. You, to whom, while invested with earthly mould, candour was so little known.
Heath. Your remark, my friend, is just. The Drawcansir-manner of this writer was truly disgusting to "all the judicious." I see but little foundation for his pride. His criticisms, whatever he may think on the matter, have never been considered as dogmas in the world of letters: his positions have never been held as incontestable truths.
Warb. What, envy and malice again at work? "The eagle towering in his pride of place," might perhaps too fatally awaken them. My soaring genius tempted you, poor "mousing owl," to pursue me too near to that sun which proved your destruction. "Twas not for eyes like yours to encounter its blaze. The glory of it confounded you; and you "toppled down headlong" from the immeasurable height.
Theob. A little humility, a little modesty, my good prelate, were more becoming in you now. But you must
acknowledge, whatever may be your opinion of other commentators, that Theobald was able to soar as well as yourself.
Warb. True, when supported by Warburton's wing. I gave you no little consequence by my notes on Shakspeare, which for some time passed for your own: a consequence, however, which, when I had abandoned you as an ingrate, you were unable to maintain. You were found to be a very groveller when left to yourself. You set up, it is true, for an Aristarchus; but with the most absurd pretensions in nature. The compliment of Cæsar to Terence, dimidiate Menander, cannot at any time be applied to you.
Theob. And yet, notwithstanding your affected contempt, I have not forgotten that the epithet "ingenious" was bestowed on me, by some of my contemporaries. Living writers, you are very sensible, do not often meet with praise from their brethren, whatever they may receive from other men.
Warb. Ingenious? Baoticum ingenium! They were laughing at you without a doubt. When seriously said, it must have been of the comments which were written by me, and which I allowed you to give to the world in your name.
Theob. Well, I will not murmur; since Heath and Edwards have alike been subject to your invectives
Warb. Edwards had some degree of merit; yet he, you find, can acknowledge his failing; for, although he was but a mere summer-fly, he would sometimes tingle a little; but, for you—
Heath. A beetle, an absolute drone, in literature.
Warb. Admirable! I shall shortly have the surly Heath to fight my battles.
Heath. Hope not too hastily; a censure of Theobald does not necessarily involve in it a commendation of Warburton. But, that this man should have endeavoured to pass his fustian tragedy, called Double Falsehood, on the world, as the work of Shakspeare, may well awaken my indignation. He, too, one of the dullest of critics.
Warb. Nay, style him not the dullest of critics. There is another commentator on the immortal bard, who surpasses even Theobald in this enviable quality : one who has also been guilty of literary forgeries, and who, like him too, has endeavoured to palm them on the public as the productions of Shakspeare.
Heath. You might likewise have observed that his comments on the poet are nothing but a string of blunders and absurdities.
Warb. He is a critic of nearly the same dimensions as Theobald: or you may rank him with the annotator