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with present things. Reflecting maturely upon all this, and taking in the whole compafs of human nature, I eafily concluded, that these antients, highly fenfible of their many imperfections, muft needs have endeavoured, from fome paffages in their works, to obviate, soften, or divert the cenforious reader, by fatyr or panegyric upon the critics, in imitation of their mafters the moderns. Now, in the common-places of both thefe + I was plentifully inftructed, by a long courfe of useful ftudy in prefaces and prologues; and therefore immediately refolved to try what I could discover of either, by a diligent perusal of the most antient writers, and especially those who treated of the earliest times. Here I found, to my great furprize, that altho' they all entered, upon occafion, into particular defcriptions of the true critic, according as they were governed by their fears or their hopes; yet whatever they touched of that kind, was with abundance of caution, adventuring no farther than mythology and hieroglyphic. This, I fuppofe, gave ground to fuperficial readers, for urging the filence of authors against the antiquity of the true critic; tho' the types are fo appofite, and the applications fo neceffary and natural, that it is not easy to conceive, how any reader of a modern eye and tafle could overlook them. I shall venture from a great number to produce a few, which I am very confident will put this queftion beyond difpute.
IT well deferves confidering, that these antient writers, in treating enigmatically upon the subject, have generally fixed upon the very fame hieroglypb; varying only the ftory according to their affections or their wit. For, first, Paufanias is of opinion, that the perfection of writing correct, was entirely owing to the inftitution of critics; and that he can poffibly mean no other than the true critic, is, I think, manifest enough from the following description. He fays, "They were a race of men, who "delighted to nimble at the fuperfluities and ex"crefcences of books; which the learned at length obferving, took warning of their own accord, to lop the "luxuriant,
† Satyr, and panegyric upon critics.
"luxuriant, the rotten, the dead, the faplefs, and the overgrown branches from their works." But now all this he cunningly fhades under the following allegory: "That theNauplians in Argos learned the art of pruning "their vines, by obferving, that when an ASS had "browsed upon one of them, it thrived the better, and bore fairer fruit." But Herodotus †, holding the very fame hieroglyph, fpeaks much plainer, and almoft in ter minis. He hath been fo bold as to tax the true critics of ignorance and malice; telling us openly; for I think nothing can be plainer; that "in the western part of Libya "there were ASSES with HORNS." Upon which relation Ctefias yet refines, mentioning the very fame animal about India, adding, "That whereas all other "ASSES wanted a gall, thefe horned ones were so re"dundant in that part, that their flesh was not to be "eaten because of its extreme bitterness."
Now, the reafon why those antient writers treated this fubject only by types and figures, was, because they durft not make open attacks against a party so potent and terrible, as the critics of thofe ages were; whose very voice was fo dreadful, that a legion of authors would tremble, and drop their pens at the found: for fo Herodotus tells us exprefsly in another place ||, how " 166 army of Scythians was put to flight in a panic terror, by the braying of an ASS." From hence it is conjectured by certain profound philologers, that the great awe and reverence paid to a true critic by the writers of Britain, have been derived to us from those our Scythian ancestors. In fhort, this dread was fo universal, that, in procefs of time, thofe authors who had a mind to publish their fentiments more freely, in defcribing the true critics of their feveral ages, were forced to leave off the ufe of the former hieroglyph, as too nearly approaching the prototype, and invented other terms inftead thereof, that were more cautious and myftical. So Diodorus ††, fpeak
Vide excerpta ex eo apud Photium.
ing to the fame purpose, ventures no farther than to say, that" in the mountains of Helicon there grows a cer"tain weed, which bears a flower of fo damned a fcent,
as to poison those who offer to smell it." Lucretius gives exactly the fame relation:
Eft etiam in magnis Heliconis montibus arbos,
BUT Ctefias, whom we lately quoted, hath been a great deal bolder. He had been used with much severity by the true critics of his own age, and therefore could not forbear to leave behind him at least one deep mark of his vengeance against the whole tribe. His meaning is fo near the furface, that I wonder how it poffibly came to be overlooked by those who deny the antiquity of the true critics. For, pretending to make a defcription of many ftrange animals about India, he hath fet down these remarkable words. 66 Amongst the reft, (fays he,) "there is a ferpent that wants teeth, and confequently "cannot bite; but if its vomit (to which it is much addicted) happens to fall upon any thing, a certain rot"tennefs or corruption enfues. Thefe ferpents are generally found among the mountains where jewels grow ; and "they frequently emit a poisonous juice; whereof whoever "drinks, that perfon's brains fly out of his noftrils."
THERE was alfo among the antients a sort of critics, not diftinguished in /pecie from the former, but in growth or degree, who seem to have been only the tyro's or junior fcholars; yet, because of their differing employments, they are frequently mentioned as a fect by themselves. The ufual exercise of these younger ftudents, was, to attend constantly at theatres, and learn to fpy out the worst parts of the play; whereof they were obliged carefully to take note, and render a rational account to their tutors. Fleshed at these smaller sports, like young wolves, they grew up in time to be nimble and strong enough for VOL. I. hunting
+ Near Helicon, and round the learned hill,
Grow trees, whofe bloffoms with their odour kill.
hunting down large game. For it hath been observed both among antients and moderns, that a true critic hath one quality in common with a whore and an alderman, never to change his title or his nature; that a grey critic has been certainly a green one, the perfections and acquirements of his age being only the improved talents of his youth; like hemp, which fome naturalifts inform us, is bad for fuffocations, tho' taken but in the feed. I esteem the invention, or at least the refinement of prologues, to have been owing to these younger proficients, of whom Terence makes frequent and honourable mention, under the name of malevoli.
Now, it is certain, the institution of the true critics was of abfolute neceffity to the commonwealth of learning. For all human actions seem to be divided like Themistocles and his company: one man can fiddle, and another can make a small town a great city; and he that cannot do either one or the other, deferves to be kicked out of the creation. The avoiding of which penalty, has doubtless given the first birth to the nation of critics ; and withal, an occafion for their fecret detractors to report, that a true critic is a fort of mechanic, fet up with a stock and tools for his trade, at as little expence as a taylor; and that there is much analogy between the utenfils and abilities of both; that the taylor's hell is the type of a critic's common-place book, and his wit and learning held forth by the goofe; that it requires at least as many of thefe to the making up of one scholar, as of the others to the compofition of a man; that the valour of both is equal, and their weapons near of a fize. Much may be faid in anfwer to thefe invidious reflections; and I can pofitively affirm the first to be a falfhood: for, on the contrary, nothing is more certain, than that it requires greater layings out, to be free of the critic's company, than of any other you can name. For, as to be a true beggar, it will coft the richest candidate every groat he is worth; fo, before one can commence a true critic, it will coft a man all the good qualities of his mind; which, perhaps, for a lefs purchase, would be thought but an indifferent bargain.
HAVING thus amply proved the antiquity of criticism, and defcribed the primitive ftate of it; I fhall now examine the present condition of this empire, and fhew how well it agrees with its antient felft. A certain author, whofe works have many ages fince been entirely loft, does, in his fifth book and eight chapter, fay of critics, that "their writings are the mirrors of learning." This I understand in a literal sense; and fuppofe our author muft mean, that whoever defigns to be a perfect writer, must inspect into the books of critics, and correct his invention there as in a mirror. Now, whoever confiders, that the mirrors of the antients were made of brass, and fine mercurio, may presently apply the two principal qualifications of a true modern critic; and, confequently, muft needs conclude, that these have always been, and must be for ever the fame. For brass is an emblem of duration; and when it is skilfully burnished, will cast reflections from its own fuperficies, without any affistance of mercury from behind. All the other talents of a critic will not require a particular mention, being included, or eafily reducible to thefe. However, I fhall conclude with three maxims, which may ferve both as characteristics to diftinguish a true modern critic from a pretender, and will be alfo of admirable use to thofe worthy fpirits who engage in fo useful and honourable an art.
THE firft is, That criticism, contrary to all other faculties of the intellect, is ever held the truest and best, when it is the very first refult of the critic's mind: as fowlers reckon the firft aim for the fureft, and feldom fail of miffing the mark, if they ftay for a fecond.
SECONDLY, The true critics are known by their talent of fwarming about the nobleft writers; to which they are carried merely by instinct, as a rat to the best cheese, or a wafp to the faireft fruit. So when the King is on horfeback, he is fure to be the dirtieft perfon of the company; and they that make their court beft, are fuch as tefpatter him moft.
A quotation after the manner of a great author. Vide Beptley's Differtation, &c.