Page images

in the will did therefore require some allowance, and a favourable interpretation, and ought to be understood cum grano solis.

But fashions perpetually altering in that age, the fcholaftic brother grew weary of searching farther evafions, and folving everlasting contradictions. Resolved therefore, at all hazards, to comply with the modes of the world, they concerted matters together, and agreed unanimoufly to lock up their father's will in a frong box *, brought out of Greece or Italy, I have forgot which ; and trouble themselves no farther to examine it, but only refer to its authority whenever they thought fit. In consequence whereof, a while after, it grew a general inode to wear an infinite number of points, moft of them tagged with filver. Upon which the scholar pronounced ex cathedra I, that points were absolutely jure paterno, as they might very well remember. It is true indeed, the fashion prescribed somewhat more than were directly named in the will ; however, that they, as heirs general of their father, had power to make and add certain clauses for public emolument, tho' not deducible, totidem verbis, from the letter of the will ; or else mulla absurda fequerentur. This was understood for canonical; and therefore or the following Sunday they came to church, all covered with points.

The learned brother fo often mentioned, was reckoned the best scholar in all that or the next street to it; inson much as, having run something behind-hand in the world, he obtained the favour of a certain Lord I, to receive him into his house, and to teach his children. A while after, the Lord died; and he, by long praélice of his father's will, found the way of contriving a deed of conveyance of that houfe to himself and his heirs. Upon which he took poffeffion, turned the young fquires outy and received his brothers in their stead I.


The Papists formerly forbade the people the use of Scripture in a vulgar tongue: Peter therefore locks up his father's will in. a strong box, brought out of Greece or Italy. These countries are named, because the New Testament is written in Greek; and the vulgar Latin, which is the authentic edition of the Bible in the church of Rome, is in the language of old Italy. W. Wotton.

The Popes, in their decretals and bulls, have given their fanction to very many gainful doctrines, which are now received in the church of Rome, that are not mentioned in Scripture, and are unknown to the primitive church. Peter accordingly pronounces ex cathedra, That points tagged with silver were absolutely jure paterno: and so they wore them in great numbers.

W. Wotton,

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][subsumed]
[ocr errors]

the rules and methods of writing laid down by the example of our illustrious moderns ; yet has the unhappy fhortness of my memory ted me into an error; from which I must extricate myself, before I can decently pursue my principal fubje&t. [ confess with fhame, it was an unpardonable omission to proceed so far as I have already done, before I had performed the due discourses, expoftulatory, supplicatory, or deprecatory, with my good Lords the critics. Towards fome atonement for this grievous neglect, I do here make humbly bold to present them with a short account of themselves and their art, by looking into the original and pedigree of the word, as it is generally understood among us, and very briefly confidering the antient and present ftare thereof.


# This was Conftantine the Great, from whom the Popes pretend a donation of St. Peter's patrimony, which they have been pever able to produce.

# Ibid. The Bishops of Rome enjoyed their privileges in Rome at first by the favour of Emperors, whom at last they shut out of their own capital city, and then forged a donation from Con

ftantine the Great, the better to justify what they did. In imitation of this, Peter," having run fomething behind-hand in, thic world, obtained leave of a certain Lord, 60" W. Wotton..

By the word critic, at this day so frequent in all conversations, there have sometimes been distinguished three very different species of mortal men, according as I have read in antient books and pamphlets. For, first, by this term was understood such persons as invented or drew up rules for themselves and the world ; by observing which a careful reader might be able to pronounce upon the productions of the learned, form his taste to a true relish of the sublime and the admirable, and divide every beauty of matter or of style from the corruption that apes it: in their common perufal of books, fingling out the errors and defects, the naufeous, the fulsome, the dull, and the impertinent, with the caution of a man that walks thro' Edinburgh streets in a morning ; who is indeed as careful as he can, to watch diligently and spy out the filth in his way; not that he is curious to observe the colour and complexion of the ordure, or take its dimenfions, much less to be paddling in, or tasting it; but only with a design to come out as cleanly as he may. These men seem, tho' very erroneously, to have understood the appellation of critic in a literal sense ; that one principal part of his office was to praise and acquit ; and that a critic who fets up to read only for an occasion of censure and reproof, is a creature as barbarous as a judge, who should take up a resolution to hang all men that came before him upon a trial.

AGAIN, by the word critic, have been meant the restorers of antient learning from the worms,


and duft of manuscripts.

Now, the races of these two have been for some ages: utterly extinct; and, besides, to discourse any farther of them would not be at all to my purpose.

The third and noblest sort, is that of the TRUE CRIT 16, whose original is the most antient of all. Every true critic is a hero born, descending in a direct line from a celestial ftem, by Momus and Hybris, who begat Zoilus, who begat Tigellius, who begat Etcætera the elder, who begat Bentley, and Rymer, and Wotton, and Perrault, and Dennis, who begat Etcætera the younger.

AND these are the critics, from whom the commonwealth of learning has in all ages received such immense


benefits, that the gratitude of their admirers placed their origine in heaven, among those of Hercules, Theseus, Perseus, and other great deservers of mankind. But heroic virtue itself hath not been exempt from the obloquy of evil tongues. For it hath been objected, that those antient heroes, famous for their combating so many giants, and dragons, and robbers, were in their own persons a greater nusance to mankind than any of those monfters they subdued ; and therefore to render their obligations more compleat, when all other vermin were destroyed, should in conscience have concluded with the fame justice upon themfelves; as Hercules moft generoufly did ; and hath, upon that score, procured to himself more temples and votaries than the best of his fel. lows. For these reasons, I suppose, it is, why some have conceived, it would be very expedient for the public good of learning, that every true critic, as soon as he had finished his tak afligned, should immediately deliver himself up to ratsbane or hemp, or from some convenient altitude ; and that no man's pretensions to so illustrious a character ihould by any means be received, before that operation were performed.

Now, from this heavenly descent of criticism, and the close analogy it bears to heroic virtue, 'tis easy to assiga the proper employment of a true, antient, genuine critic; which is, to travel thro' this vast world of writings ; to pursue and hunt those monstrous faults bred within them; to drag out the lurking errors, like Cacus from his den; to multiply them like Hydra's heads, and rake them to gether like Augeas's dung; or else drive away a sort of dangerous fowl, who have a perverse inclination to plander the best branches of the free of knowledge ; like those Stymphalian birds that eat up the fruit.

These reasonings will furnith us with an adequate de. finition of a true critic ; that he is a discoverer and collector of writers faults: which may be farther put beyond difpute by the following demonstration : That whoever will examine the writings in all kinds, wherewith this antient feet has honoured the world, fhall immediately find, from the whole thread and tenor of them, that the ideas of the authors have been altogether conversant and taken up with the faults, and blemishes, and oversights, and mistakes of other writers; and let the subject treated on be whatever it will, their imaginations are fo entirely poffeffed and replete with the defects of other pens, that the very quintessence of what is bad does of neceflity diftill into their own; by which means, the whole appears to be nothing else but an abstract of the criticisms themselves have made.



Having thus briefly considered the original and office of a critic, as the word is understood in its most noble and universal acceptation, I proceed to refute the objections of those who argue from the filence and pretermission of authors ; by which they pretend to prove, that the very art of criticism, as now exercised, and by me explained, is wholly modern; and confequently, that the critics of Great Britain and France, have no title to an original so antient and illustrious as I have deduced. Now, if I can clearly make out, on the contrary, that the most antient writers have particularly defcribed both the person and the office of a true critic, agreeable to the definition laid down by me ; their grand objection from the filence of authors will fall to the ground.

I confefs to have for a long time born a part in this general error ; from which I should never have acquitted myself, but through the aslistance of our noble moderns ; whose most edifying volumes I turn indefatigably over night and day, for the improvement of my mind, and the good of my country. These have with unwearied pains made many useful fearches into the weak fides of the antients, and given us a comprehensive list of them to Besides, they have proved, beyond contradiction, that the very finest things delivered of old, have been long since invented, and brought to light by much later pens ; and that the noblest discoveries those antients ever made, of art or nature, have all been produced by the tranfcending genius of the present age : which clearly shews how little merit those antients can juftly pretend to; and takes off that blind admiration paid them by men in a. corner, who have the unhappinefs of converfing too little

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


+ Sce Wotton of ancient and modern learning:

« PreviousContinue »