Obrazy na stronie

bellion. These are principles so destructive to the peace and society of mankind, that they deserve to be pursued by our serious hatred; and the putting a mask of sanctity upon such devils, is so ridiculous, that it ought to be exposed to contempt and laughter. They are indeed prophane, who counterfeit the softness of the voice of holiness, to disguise the roughness of the hands of impiety; and not they, who, with reverence to the thing which others dissemble, deride nothing but their dissimulation. If some piece of an admirable artist should be ill copied, even to ridiculousness, by an ignorant hand; and another painter should undertake to draw that copy, and make it yet more ridiculous, to shew apparently the difference of the two works, and deformity of the latter; will not every man see plainly, that the abuse is intended to the foolish imitation, and not to the excellent original? I might say much more, to confute and confound this very false and malicious accusation; but this is enough, I hope, to clear the matter, and is, I am afraid, too much for a preface to a work of so little consideration.

As for all other objections, which have been, or may be made against the invention or elocution, or any thing else which comes under the critical jurisdiction; let uit stand or fall as it can answer for itself, for I do not lay the great stress of my reputation upon a structure of this nature, much less upon the slight reparations only of an old and unfashionable building. There is no writer but may fail sometimes in point of wit; and it is no less frequent for the auditors to fail in point of judgment. l perceive plainly, by daily experience, that Fortune is mistress of the theatre, as Tully says it is of all popular assemblies. No man can tell sometimes from whence the invisible winds rise that move them. There are a multitude of people, who are truly and only spectators at a play, without any use of their understanding; and these carry it sometimes by the strength of their numbers. There are others, who use their understandings too much; who think it a sign of weakness and stupidity, to let any thing pass by them unattacked, and that the honour of their judgments (as some brutals imagine of their courage) consists in quarrelling with every thing. We are, therefore, wonderful wise men, and have a fine business of it, we, who spend our time in poetry: I do sometimes laugh, and am often angry with myself, when I think on it; and if I had a son inclined by nature to the same folly, I believe I should bind him from it, by the strictest conjurations of a paternal blessing. For what can be more ridiculous, than to labour to give men delight, whilst they labour, on their part, more earnestly, to take offence? To expose one's self voluntarily and frankly to all the dangers of that narrow passage to unprofitable fame, which is defended by rude multitudes of the ignorant, and by armed troops of the malicious? If we do ill, many discover it, and all despise us; if we do well, but few men find it out, and fewer entertain it kindly. If we

commit errors, there is no pardon; if we could do wonders, there would be but little thanks, and that too extorted from unwilling givers.

But some perhaps may say, Was it not always thus? Do you expect a particular privilege, that was never yet enjoyed by any poet? Were the ancient Grecian, or noble Roman authors, was Virgil himself, exempt from this possibility,

Qui melior multis, quam tit, fuit, improbe, rebus *;

who was, in many things, thy better far, thou impudent pretender; as was said by Lucretius to a person, who took it ill that he was to die, though he had seen so many do it before him, who better deserved immortality: and this is to repine at the natural condition of a living poet, as he did at that of a living mortal. I do not only acknowledge the preeminence of Virgil (whose footsteps I adore,) but submit to many of his Roman brethren; and I confess, that even they in their own times, were not so secure from the assaults of detraction, though HoRace brags at last,

Jam dente minus mordeor inviJo t;

but then the barkings of a few were drowned in the applause of all the rest of the world, and the poison of their bitings extinguished by the antidote of great rewards and great encouragements, which is a way of

* Lncr. iii. 1039. t 4 Carm. iii. 16.


curing now out of use; and I really profess, that I neither expect, nor think I deserve it. Indolency would serve my turn instead of pleasure: but the case is not so well; for, though I comfort myself with some assurance of the favour and affection of very many candid and good-natured (and yet too judicious and even critical) persons ; yet this I do affirm, that from all which 1 have written I never received the least benefit, or the least advantage; but, on the contrary, have felt sometimes the effects of malice and misfortune.

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