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TO THE REVEREND
IVE me leave to prefent to you the following Effay on the Epiftle to Auguftus; which, whatever other merit it may want, is fecure of this, that it hath been planned upon the best model. For I know not what fhould hinder me from declaring to you in this public manner, that it was the early pleasure I received from what you had written of this fort, which firft engaged me in the province of criticism. And, if I have taken upon
me to illuftrate another of the finest pieces of antiquity after the fame method, it is because I find myself encouraged to do fo by higher confiderations, than even the Authority of your example,
CRITICISM, Confidered in its antient and nobleft office of doing juftice to the merits of great writers, more especially in works of poetry and invention, demands, to its perfect execution, these two qualities: a philofophic fpirit, capable of penetrating the fundamental reasons of excellence in every different fpecies of compofition; and a strong imagination, the parent of what we call true tafte, enabling the critic to feel the full force of his author's excellence himfelf, and to imprefs a lively fenfe of it upon others. Each of these abilities is neceffary. For by means of philofophy, criticism, which were otherwife a vague and fuperficial thing, acquires
acquires the foundness and folidity of fcience. And from the power of fancy, it derives that light and energy and fpirit, which are wanting to provoke the public emulation and carry the general conclufions of reafon into practice.
Of these talents (to regard them in their separate state) that of a strong imagination, as being the commoner of the two, one would naturally suppose fhould be the first to exert itself in the fervice of criticism. And thus it seems, in fact, to have happened. For there were very early in Greece a fort of men, who, under the name of RHAPSODISTS, made it their business to illuftrate the beauties of their favourite writers. Though their art, indeed, was very fimple; for it confifted only in acting the fineft paffages of their works, and in repeating them, with a rapturous kind of vehemence, to an a 3 ecftatic
ecftatic auditory. Whence it appears, that criticism, as being yet in its infancy, was wholly turned to admiration; a paffion which true judgment as little indulges in the schools of Art, as found philosophy, in those of Nature. Accordingly these enraptured declaimers, though they travelled down to the politer ages, could not fubfift in them. The fine ridicule of Plato, in one of his Dialogues [a], and the growing tafte for just thinking, feem perfectly to have difcredited this folly. And it. was presently feen and acknowledged even by the Rhapfodift himself, that, how divinely foever he might feel himfelf affected by the magnetic virtue of the mufe, yet, as he could give no intelligible account of its fubtle operations, he was affuredly no Artist; ΘΕΙΟΝ εἶναι καὶ μὴ ΤΕΧΝΙΚΟΝ ἐπαινέ