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as well as my own. However, being extremely follicitous, that every accomplished perfon, who has got into the taste of wit calculated for this prefent month of August, 1697, should defcend to the very bottom of all the fublime throughout this treatise, I hold fit to lay down this general maxim: whatever reader defires to have a thorough comprehenfion of an author's thoughts, cannot take a better method, than by putting himself into the circumstances and postures of life, that the writer was in upon every important paffage, as it flowed from his pen : for this will introduce a parity and strict correspondence of ideas between the reader and the author. Now, to affift the diligent reader in fo delicate an affair, as far as brevity will permit, I have recollected, that the fhrewdeft pieces of this treatise were conceived in bed, in a garret. At other times, for a reason best known to myself, I thought fit to fharpen my invention with hunger and in general, the whole work was begun, continued and ended, under a long courfe of phyfic, and a great want of money. Now, I do affirm, it will be abfolutely impoffible for the candid peruser to go along with me in a great many bright paffages, unlefs, upon the feveral difficulties emergent, he will please to capacitate and prepare himself by these directions. And this I lay down as my principal poftulatum.
BECAUSE I have professed to be a most devoted fervant of all modern forms, I apprehend fome curious wit may object against me, for proceeding thus far in a preface, without declaiming, according to the custom, against the multitude of writers, whereof the whole multitude of writers most reasonably complain. I am just come from perufing fome hundreds of prefaces, wherein the authors do at the very beginning address the gentle reader concerning this enormous grievance. Of these I have preferved a few examples, and fhall fet them down as near as my memory has been able to retain them.
One begins thus:
"For a man to fet up for a writer, when the press "fwarms with, &c."
"The tax upon paper does not leffen the number of "fcriblers, who daily pefter, &c."
"When every little Would-be-wit takes pen in hand, “'tis in vain to enter the lists, &c.”
"To obferve what trash the prefs fwarms with, &c." Another :
"Sir, It is merely in obedience to your commands, that I venture into the public: for who, upon a lefs confideration, would be of a party with fuch a rabble "" of fcriblers? &c."
Now, I have two words in my own defence against this objection. First, I am far from granting the number of writers a nufance to our nation; having ftrenuously maintained the contrary in feveral parts of the following difcourfe. Secondly, I do not well understand the juftice of this proceeding; because I obferve many of thefe polite prefaces to be not only from the fame hand, but from thofe who are most voluminous in their several productions: upon which I fhall tell the reader a fhort tale.
"A mountebank, in Leicester-fields, had drawn a huge "affembly about him. Among the reft, a fat unwieldy "fellow, half ftifled in the prefs, would be every fit crying out,-Lord! what a filthy crowd is here! Pray, good people, give way a little. Blefs me! what a "devil has raked this rabble together! Z-ds, "what fqueezing is this! Honeft friend, remove your "elbow.- At laft a weaver, that stood next him, "could hold no longer.- -A plague confound you, "(faid he) for an overgrown floven; and who, (in the "devil's name), I wonder, helps to make up the crowd "half fo much as yourfelf? Don't you confider, (with
a pox) that you take up more room with that carcass "than any five here? Is not the place as free for us as "for you? Bring your own guts to a reasonable compafs, (and be d―n'd); 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 fomething very useful and profound is couched underneath; and again, that whatever word or fentence is printed in a different character, fhall be judged to contain fomething extraordinary either of wit or Jublime.
As for the liberty I have thought fit to take of praising myself, upon fome occafions or none, I am fure it will need no excufe, if a multitude of great examples be allowed fufficient authority. For it is here to be noted, that praife was originally a penfion paid by the world: but the moderns, finding the trouble and charge too great in collecting it, have lately bought out the fee-fimple; fince which time the right of prefentation 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 infift upon his title; which is commonly in thefe or the like words, I fpeak without vanity which, I think, plainly fhews it to be a matter of right and justice. Now, I do here once for all declare, that in every encounter of this nature, thro' the following treatise, the form aforefaid is implied; which I mention to fave the trouble of repeating it on fo many occafions.
'Tis a great eafe to my confcience, that I have written fo elaborate and useful a difcourfe without one grain of fatire intermixed; which is the fole point wherein I have taken leave to diffent from the famous originals of our age and country. I have obferved fome fatirifts to use the public much at the rate, that pedants do a naughty boy ready horfed for difcipline: firft, expoftulate the cafe, then plead the neceffity of the rod, from great provocations, and conclude every period with a lash. Now, if I know any thing of mankind, thefe gentlemen might very well spare their reproof and correction: for there is not thro' all nature another fo callous and infenfible a member as the world's pofteriors, whether you apply to it the toe or the birch. Befides, most of our late fatirifts feem to ly under a fort of mistake, that because nettles have the prerogative to fting, therefore all other weeds must do fo too. I make
not this comparison out of the leaft defign to detract from thefe worthy writers: for it is well known among mythologifts, that weeds have the pre-eminence over all other vegetables; and therefore the first monarch of this ifland, whose tafte and judgment were fo acute and refined, did very wifely root out the roles from the collar of the order, and plant the thiles in their flead, as the nobler flower of the two. For which reason it is conjectured by profounder antiquaries, that the fatirical itch, fo prevalent in this part of our island, was firft brought among us from beyond the Tweed. Here may it long flourish and abound. May it furvive and neglect the fcorn of the world, with as much eafe and contempt as the world is infenfible to the lafhes of it. May their own dulness, or that of their party, be no difcouragement 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 loft their edge. Befides, thofe whose teeth are too rotten to bite, are best of all others qualified to revenge that defeat with their breath.
I am not like other men, to envy or undervalue the talents I cannot reach; for which reafon I muft needs bear a true honour to this large eminent fect of our British writers. And I hope, this little panegyric will not be offenfive to their ears, fince it has the advantage of being only defigned for themselves. Indeed, nature
berfelf has taken order, that fame and honour should be purchased at a better pennyworth by fatire, than by any other productions of the brain; the world being fooneft provoked to praise by lashes, as men are to love. There is a problem in an antient author, why dedications, and other bundles of flattery, run all upon ftale mufty topics, without the smallest tincture of any thing new; not only to the torment and naufeating of the chriftian reader, but, if not fuddenly prevented, to the univerfal fpreading of that peftilent difeafe, the lethargy, in this ifland: whereas there is very little fatire which has not fomething in it untouched before. The defects of the former are ufually imputed to the want of invention among those who are dealers in that kind: but, I think, with: D 2
a great deal of injuftice; the folution being eafy and natural: for the materials of panegyric, being very few in number, have been long fince exhaufted. For, as health is but one thing, and has been always the fame, whereas diseases are by thousands, befides new and daily additions; fo all the virtues that have been ever in mankind, are to be counted upon a 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 lift of the cardinal virtues, and deal them with his utmoft liberality to his hero or his patron. He may ring the changes as far as it will go, and vary his phrafe till he has talked round; but the reader quickly finds it is all pork, with a little variety of fauce. For there is no inventing terms of art beyond our ideas; and when our ideas are exhausted, terms of art must be fo too.
BUT, tho' the matter for panegyric were as fruitful as the topics of fatire, yet would it not be hard to find out a fufficient reafon, why the latter will be always better received than the firft. For, this being bestowed only upon one or a few perfons at a time, is fure to raife envy, and confequently ill words, from the reft, who have no fhare in the bleffing. But fatire being levelled at all, is never refented for an offence by any; fince every individual perfon makes bold to understand it of others, and very wifely removes his particular part of the burden upon the fhoulders of the world, which are broad enough, and able to bear it. To this purpose, I have fometimes reflected upon the difference between Athens and England, with refpect to the point before us. In the Attic commonwealth, it was the privilege and birthright of every citizen and poet, to rail aloud and in public, or to expofe upon the ftage, by name, any person they pleafed, tho' of the greatest figure, whether a Creon, an Hyperbolus, an Alcibiades, or a Demofthenes. But, on the other fide, the leaft reflecting word let fall against the people in general, was immediately caught up, and revenged upon the authors,