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Sir, It is merely in obedience to your commands, that I venture into the public; for who, upon a less confideration, would be of a party with
such a rabbie of fcribblers ? &c. Now, I have two words in my own defence against this objection. Firlt, I am far from granting the number of writers a nuisance to our nation, having strenuously maintained the contrary in several parts of the following discourse. Secondly, I do not well understand the justice of this proceeding; because I observe many of these polite prefaces to be not only from the fame hand, but from those who are most voluminous in their feveral productions. Upon which I shall tell the reader a short tale:
A mountebank, in Leicester-fields, had drawn a huge assembly about him. Among the rest, a sat unweildy féllow, half-stified in the press, would be every fit crying oat, Lord ! what a filthy croud is here? Pray, good people, give way a little. Bless me! what a devil bas raked this rabble together! Z-ds, what squeezing is this! Honest friend, remove your elbow. At last, a weaver, that tood next him, could hold no longer : A plague confound you (Said he) for - an overgrown floven ; and who, in the devil's name, I wonder, helps to make up the croud half so much as yourself?. Don't you consider, with a pox, that you take-up more room with that carcase than any five, here? Is not the place as free for us as for you? Bring your own guts to a reasonable compass, and be d-nd; and then I'll engage we : shall have room enough for us all.
There are certain common privileges of a writer, the benefit whereof, I hope, there will be no reason to doubt; particularly, that, where I am not understood, it shall be concluded, that something very useful and profound is couched underneath ; and again, that whatever word or sentence is printed in a different character, foall be judged to contain something extraordinary el ther of wit or sublime.
As for the liberty I have thought fit to take of prai sing myself upon some occasions or none; I am sure it will need no excuse, if a multitude of great examples be allowed. Lufficient authority. For it is here to be noted,
that praise was originally a pension paid by the world : but the moderns, finding the trouble and charge too great in collecting it, have lately bought out the fee-fimple; since which time, the right of presentation is wholly in ourselves. For this reason it is, that when an author makes his own elogy, he uses a certain form to declare and insist upon his title; which is commonly in these or the like words, I speak without vanity: which I think plainly shews it to be a matter of right and justice. Now, I do here once for all declare, that in every en. counter of this nature, through the following treatise, the form aforesaid is implied; which I mention, to save the trouble of repeating it on so many occasions.
It is a great ease to my conscience, that I have written fo elaborate and useful a discourse without one grain of satire intermixed; which is the føle point wherein I have taken leave to dissent from the famous originals of our age and country. I have observed fome fatirifts to use the publick much at the rate that pedants do a naughty boy ready horsed for discipline: first, expoftulate the cafe, then plead the ncceffity of the rod, from great provocations, and conclude every period with a lash. Now, if I know any thing of mankind, these gentlemen might very well spare their reproof and correction : for there is not, through all nature, another fo callous and infensible a member as the world's posteriors, whether you apply to it the toe or the birch. Befides, most of our late fatirists seem to lie under a fort of mistake, that because nettles have the prerogative to sting, therefore all other weeds must do so too. I make not this comparison out of the feaft defign to de. tract from these worthy writers : for it is well known among mythologists, that weeds have the preheminence over all other vegetables ;. and therefore the first monarch of this iland, whose taste and judgment were so acute and refined, did very wisely root out the rofas from the collar of the order, and plant the thistles in their stead, as the nobler flower of the two. For which reason it is conjectured by profounder antiquaries, that the satirical itch, fo prevalent in this part of our illand, was first brought among us from beyond the Tweed. Here may it long flourish and abound. May it furvive and neglect
the scorn of the world, with as much ease and contempt, as the world is insensible to the lashes of it. May their own dulness, or that of their party, be no discouragement for the authors to proceed; but let them remember, it is with wits as with razors, which are never fo apt to cut those they are employed on, as when they have lost their edge. Befides, thofe whose teeth are too rotten to bite, are best, of all others, qualified to revenge that defect with their breath.
I am not, like other men, to envy or undervalue the talents I cannot reach ; for which reason I must needs bear a true honour to this large eminent fect of our British writers. And I hope, this little panegyric will not be offensive to their ears, since it has the advantage of being only defigned for themselves. Indeed, Nature herself has taken
order, that famé and honour should be purchased at a better pennyworth by fatire, than by any other productions of the brain ; the world being soon. eft provoked to praise by lashes, as men are to love. There is a problem in an ancient author, why dedications, and other bundles of mattery, run all upon ftale musty topics, without the smallelt tincture of any thing new; not only to the torment and nauseating of the Christian reader, but, if not suddenly prevented, to the universal spreading of that pestilent disease, the lethargy, in this island: whereas there is very little satire which has not something in it untouched before. The defects of the former are usually imputed to the want of invention among thofe who are dealers in that kind; but, I think, with a great deal of injustice; the solution being easy and natural. For the materials of panegyrie, being very few in number, have been long since exhaust ed. For as health is but one thing, and has been always the same : whereas diseases are by thousands, befides new and daily additions : so all the virtues that have been ever in mankind, are to be counted upon 3 few fingers ; but his follies and vices are innumerable, and time adds hourly to the heap. Now, the utmost a poor poet can do, is to get by heart a list of the cardinal virtues, and deal them with his utmost liberality to his hero or his patron. He may ring the changes as far as it will go, and vary his phrase till he has talked
round: but the reader quickly finds it is all pork*, with a little variety of sauce. For there is no inventing terms of art beyond our ideas; and when our ideas are exhaust. ed, terms of art must be so too.
But though the matter for panegyric were as fruitful - as the topics of satire, yet would it not be hard to find oat a sufficient reason, why the latter will be always better received than the firft. For this being bestowed only upon one, or a few persons at a time, is sure to raise envy, and consequently ill - words, from the rest, who have no share in the blessing. But satire, being levelled at all, is never resented for an offence by any ; Since every individual person makes bold to understand it of others, and very wisely removes his particular part of the burden upon the shoulders of the world, which are broad enough, and able to bear it. To this purs pose, I have sometimes. reflected upon the difference beiween Athens and England with respect to the point before us.
In the Attic commonwealth te it was the pri: vilege and birthright of every citizen and poet, to rail : aloud, and in public, or to expose upon the stage by name, any person they pleased, though. of the greatest figure, whether a Creon, an Hyperbolus, an Alcibiades, or a Demosthenes. But, on the other side, the least reflecting word let fall against the people in general, was immediately caught up, and revenged upon the authors, however considerable for their quality of their merits. Whereas in England it is just the reverse of all this. Here, you may securely display your - utmost rhetoric a
gainst mankind, in the face of the world ; te!-them, That all are gone astray ; that there is none that doib good, no not one ; that we live in the very dregs of times that knavery and atheism are epidemic as the pox; that honesty is fled with Aftræa, with any other common places, equally new and eloquent, which are furnished by the splendida bilis
. T... And when you have done, the whole audience, far from being offended, shall retura you thanks, as a deliverer of precious and useful truthsi Nay farther, it is but.to venture your lungs, and you may preach in Covent-garden against foppery. and for* Plutarch. t Vido Xenoph. | Hor. Spleen.
nication, and something else; against pride, and disfimulation, and bribery, at White-hall : you may expose rapine and injustice in the inns of court chapel; and in a city pulpit, be as fierce as you please against avarice, hy pocrisy, and extortion. It is but a ball bandied to and fro, and every man carries a racket about him to strike it from himself among the rest of the company. But, on the other side, whoever should mistake the nature of things so far, as to drop but a single hint in public, how such a one starved half the fleet, and half-poisoned the rest; how such a one, from a true principle of love and honour, pays no debts but for wenches and play ; how such a one has got a clap, and runs out of his estate ; how Paris, bribed by Juno and Venus *, loth to offend either party, Nept out the whole cause on the bench; or, how such an orator makes long speeches in the fenate with much thought, little sense, and to no purpose : whoever, I say, should venture to be thus particular, must expect to be imprisoned for fcandalum magnatum; to have challenges sent him ; to be sued for defamation ; and to be brought before the bar of the house.
But I forget that I am expatiating on a subject wherein I have no concern, having neither a talent
nor an inclination for fatire ! On the other side, I am so entirely satisfied with the whole present procedure of human things, that I have been some years preparing materials towards A panegyric upon the world ; to which I intended to add a second part, intitled, A modeft defence of the proceedings of the rabble in all ages. Both these I had thoughts to publish, by way of appendix to the following treatise ; but, finding my common-place book fill much flower than I had reason to expect, I have chosen to defer them to another occasion. Besides, I have been unhappily prevented in that design by a certain domestic misfortune: in the particulars whereof, though it would be very seasonable, and much in the modern way, to inform the gentle reader, and would also
*Juno and Venus, are money and a mistress ; very powerful bribes to a judge, if scandal says true. I remember such reflections were cast about that time, but I cannot fix the person intended here.