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true, that in every age, the highest character for sense and learning has been obtained 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 fay 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 served 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 informed of my errors, both by my friends and enemies : But the true reason these pieces are not more correct, is owing to the consideration how short a time they, and I, have to
than to look out for a new. His taste partook the error of his religion ; it denied not worship to saiots and angels; that is, to writers, who, canonized for ages, have received their apotheofis from established and universal fame.” It might, perhaps, have been replied to Young ; you, indeed, have given us a considerable number of original thoughts in your works, but they would have been more chaste and correct if you had imitated the ancients
There are entertaining differtations on plagiarisms and borrowing in Le Motthe le Vayer, tom. ii. 344.
The opinion of Longinus deserves our attention. 'Esi dos κλοπή το πραγμα , αλλ', ώς από καλών ηθών, ή πλασμάτων, η δημιουργημάτων
Tolúz wois. Sect. 13. p. 88. edit. Pearce. Of this opinion also were Addison and Boileau.
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 sacrificed much of my own self-love for its fake, in preventing not only many mean things from seeing the light, but many which I thought tolerable. I would not be like those Authors, who forgive themselves some particular lines for the sake of a whole Poem, and vice versa a whole Poem for the fake of some particular lines. I believe no one qualification is so likely to make a good writer, as the power of rejecting his own thoughts; and it must be this (if any thing) that can give me a chance to
For what I have published, I can only hope to be pardoned; but for what I have burned, I deserve to be praised. On this account the world is under fome obligation to me, and owes me the justice in return, to look upon mo verses as mine that are not inserted in this collection*. And perhaps nothing could make it worth my while to own what are really so, but to avoid the imputation of so many
• This fair and honest statement should surely have prevented the admission of many things, which have been inserted, in Pope's Works, contrary to his own intentions.
dull and immoral things, as partly by malice, and partly by ignorance, have been ascribed to me. I must further acquit myself of the presumption of having lent my name to recommend any Miscellanies, or Works of other men; a thing I never thought becoming a Person who has hardly credit enough to answer for his own.
In this office of collecting my pieces, I am altogether uncertain, whether to look upon myself as a man building a monument, or burying the dead.
If Time shall make it the former, may these Poems (as long as they last) remain as a testimony, that their Author never made his talents subservient to .the mean and unworthy ends of Party or Self-interest; the gratification of public prejudices, or private paffions; the flattery of the undeserving, or the insult of the unfortunate. If I have written well, let it be considered that 'tis what no man can do without good sense, a quality that not only renders one capable of being a good writer, but a good man. And if I have made any acquisition in the opinion of any one under the notion of the former, let it be continued to me under no other title than that of the latter.
But if this publication be only a more folemn funeral of my remains, I desire it may be known that I die in charity, and in my senses; without any murmurs against the justice of this age, or any mad
appeals appeals to posterity. I declare I shall think the world in the right, and quietly submit to every truth which time shall discover to the prejudice of these writings; not so much as wishing so irrational a thing, as that every body should be deceived merely for my credit. However, I desire it may then be confidered, That there are very few things in this collection which were not written under the age of five-and-twenty: so that my youth may be made (as it never fails to be in Executions) a case of compassion. That I was never fo concerned about my works as to vindicate them in print, believing, if any thing was good, it would defend itself; and what was bad could never be defended. That I used no artifice to raise or continue a reputation, depreciated no dead author I was obliged to, bribed no living one with unjust praise, insulted no adversary * with ill language; or, when I could not attack
Dr. Warton says « this was written in 1716; did our author recollect it in 1729?” Who can help grieving, indeed, for the weakness of our best resolutions, when we reflect that the heart and hand which dictated and wrote these manly sentiments, should be capable of nourishing resentment, and directing the shafts of increasing hoftility, against a female, once the object of tenderness and respect. I allude to the lines on lady M. W. Montagu, which no provocation could justify. Nothing, however, can be more just and beautiful, than the sentiments and language of the author conveyed in this passage. If he departed from them in his more advanced age, let us attribute something to the irritation of sickness and bodily infirmity, to the disappointments which increafing years necessarily bring ; to warmth of feelings unreturned, and to ideas of unkind treatment exaggerated, by a mind too refined in its sensations of wrong.
a Rival's works, encouraged reports against his Morals. To conclude, if this volume perish, let it serve as a warning to the Critics, not to take too much pains for the future to destroy such things as will die of themselves; and a Memento mori to some of my vain contemporaries the Poets, to teach them that, when real merit is wanting, it avails nothing to have been encouraged by the great, commended by the eminent, and favoured by the public in general *.
Nov. 10, 1716.
* I cannot forbear adding how excellently well written is Cowley's preface to his works, folio, 1659; and how much superior it is to Sprat’s Life of that amiable Author. Both Cowley and Spenser wrote profe excellently. J.WARTOX.