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abilities. Interest and passion will hold out long against the closest siege of diagrams and syllogisms, but they are absolutely impregnable to imagery and fentiment; and will for ever bid defiance to the most powerful strains of Virgil or Homer, though they may give way in time to the batteries of Euclid or Archimedes.
In trusting therefore to the sentence of a critick, we are in danger not only from that vanity which exalts writers too often to the dignity of teaching what they are yet to learn, from that negligence which sometimes steals upon the most vigilant cau. tion, and that fallibility to which the condition of nature has subjected every human understanding ; but from a thousand extrinsick and accidental causes, from every thing which can excite kindness or malevo, lence, veneration or contempt.
Many of those who have determined with great boldness upon the various degrees of literary merit, may be justly suspected of having passed sentence, as Seneca remarks of Claudius,
Una tantum parte audita,
without much knowledge of the cause before them : for it will not easily be imagined of Langbaine, Borrichius, or Rapin, that they had very accurately perused all the books which they praise or censure; or that, even if nature and learning had qualified them for judges, they could read for ever with the attention necessary to just criticism. Such performances, however, are not wholly without their use ; for they are commonly just echoes to the voice of fame, and
transmit the general fuffrage of mankind when they
fre. quently milled by interest. The bigotry with which editors regard the authors whom they illustrate or correct, has been generally remarked. Dryden was known to have written most of his critical differtations only to recommend the work upon which he then happened to be employed; and Addison is fuso pected to have denied the expediency of poetical justice, because his own Cato' was condemned to perish in a good cause.
There are prejudices which authors, not otherwise weak or corrupt, have indulged without scruple; and perhaps some of them are so complicated with our natural affections, that they cannot easily be disen, tangled from the heart,
Scarce any can hear with impartiality a comparison between the writers of his own and another country, and though it cannot, I think, be charged equally on all nations, that they are blinded with this literary patriotism, yet there are none that do not look upon their authors with the fondness of affinity, and esteem them as well for the place of their birth, as for their knowledge or their wit. There is, therefore, seldom much respect due to comparative criticism, when the competitors are of different countries, unless the judge is of a nation equally indifferent to both, The Italians could not for a long time believe, that there was any learning beyond the mountains; and the French seem generally persuaded, that there are no wits or reasoners equal to their own. I can scarcely conceive that if Scaliger had not considered himself as allied to Vir,
gil, by being born in the same country, he would have found his works so much superior to those of Homer, or have thought the controversy worthy of so much zeal, vehemence, and acrimony.
There is, indeed, one prejudice, and only one, by which it may be doubted whether it is any dishonour to be sometimes misguided. Criticism has so often given occasion to the envious and ill-natured of gratifying their malignity, that some have thought it necessary to recommend the virtue of candour with. out restriction, and to preclude all future liberty of censure. Writers possessed with this opinion are continually enforcing civility and decency, recommending to criticks the proper diffidence of themselves, and inculcating the veneration due to cele. brated cames.
I am not of opinion that these professed enemies of arrogance and severity have much more benevolence or modesty than the rest of mankind; or that they feel in their own hearts, any other intention than to distinguish themselves by their softness and delicacy. Some are modest because they are timorous, and some are lavila of praise because they hope to be repaid.
There is indeed some tenderness due to living writers, when they attack none of those truths which are of importance to the happiness of mankind, and have committed no other offence than that of betraying their own ignorance or dulness. I should think it cruelty to crush an insect who had provoked me only by buzzing in my ear; and would not will. ingly interrupt the dream of harmless stupidity, or destroy the jest which makes its author laugh. Yet I am far from thinking this tenderness universally necessary; for he that writes may be considered as a kind of general challenger, whom every one has a right to attack ; since he quits the common rank of life, steps forward beyond the lists, and offers his merit to the publick judgment. To commence author is to claim praise, and no man can justly afpire to honour, but at the hazard of disgrace.
But whatever be decided concerning contemporaries, whom he that knows the treachery of the human heart, and confiders how often we gratify our own pride or envy under the appearance of contendo ing for elegance and propriety, will find himself not much inclined to disturb; there can surely be no exemptions pleaded to secure them from criticism, who can no longer suffer by reproach, and of whom nothing now remains but their writings and their names. Upon these authors the critick is undoubtedly at full liberty to exercise the strictest severity, since he endangers only his own fame, and, like Æneas when he drew his sword in the infernal regions, encoun. ters phantoms which cannot be wounded. He
may indeed pay some regard to established reputation ; but he can by that shew of reverence consult only his own security, for all other motives are now at an end.
The faults of a writer of acknowledged excellence are more dangerous, because the influence of his exe ample is more extensive; and the interest of learning requires that they should be discovered and stigmatized, before they have the fanction of antiquity conferred upon them, and become precedents of ina disputable authority.
It has, indeed, been advanced by Addison, as one of the characteristicks of a true critick, that he points out beauties rather than faults. But it is rather na. tural to a man of learning and genius to apply himself chiefly to the study of writers who have more beauties than faults to be displayed: for the duty of criticism is neither to depreciate, nor dignify by partial representations, but to hold out the light of reason, whatever it may discover; and to promulgate the determinations of truth, whatever the shall dictate.
THE *HE resemblance of poetick numbers to the
fubject which they mention or describe, may be considered as general or particular; as consisting in the flow and structure of a whole passage taken together, or as comprised in the found of some emphatical and descriptive words, or in the cadence and harmony of single verses.
The general resemblance of the found to the sense is to be found in every language which admits of