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Sir Henry Saville, that various lections are now grown so voluminous, that we begin to value the first editions of hooks as most correct, because least corrected. There are other critics who think themselves obliged
to see no imperfections in their author : from of partial Critics.
the moment they undertake his cause, they
look upon him, as a lover upon his mistress, he has no faults, or his very faults improve into beauties: this, indeed, is a well-natured error, but still blanieable, because it misguides the judgment. Such critics act no less erroneously, than a judge who should resolve to acquit a person, whether innocent or guilty, who comes before him upon his trial. It is frequent for the partial critic to praise the work as he likes the author; he admires a book as an antiquary a medal, solely from the impression of the name, and not from the intrinsic value: the copper of a favourite writer shall be more esteemed than the finest gold of a less acceptable author : for this reason many persons have chosen to publish their works without a name, and by this method, like Apelles, who stood unseen behind his own Venus, have received a praise, which perhaps might have been denied if the author had been visible. But there are other critics who act a contrary part,
and condemn all as criminals whom they try: Of envious they dwell only on the faults of an author, and mali
and endeavour to raise a reputation by difcious cris tics. praising every thing that other nien praise;
they have an antipathy to a shining character, like some animals, that hate the sun only because of its
brightness: it is a crime with them to excel ; they are a s kind of Tartars in learning, who seeing a person of [ distinguished qualifications, immediately endeavour to
kill him, in hopes to attain just so much merit as they destroy in their adversary. I never look into one of these critics but he puts me in mind of a giant in romance : the glory of the giant consists in the number of the limbs of men whom he has destroyed ; that of the critic in viewing Disjecti membra Poetæ."
HOR. If ever he accidentally deviates into praise, lie does it that his ensuing blame may fall with the greater weight; he adorns an author with a few flowers, as the antients those victims which they were ready to sacrifice: he ftudies criticism as if it extended only to dispraise; a practice, which, when most successful, is least desirable. A painter might justly be thought to have a perverse imagination, who should delight only to draw the deformities and distortions of human nature, which, when executed by the most masterly hand, strike the beholder with most horror. It is usual with envious critics to attack the writings of others, because they are good; they constantly prey upon the fairest fruits, and hope to spread their own works by uniting them to those of their adversary. But this is like Mezentius in Virgil, to join a dead carcass to a living body; and the only effect of it, to fill every well-natured mind with detestation: their malice becomes impotent, and, contrary, to their design, they give a testimony of their enemy's 5
merit, and thew him to be an hero by turning all their weapons against him : such critics are like dead coals, they may blacken, but cannot burn.
These writers bring to my memory a passage in the Iliad, where all the inferior powers, the Plebs Superùm, or rabble of the sky, are fancied to unite their endeavours to pull Jupiter down to the earth : but by the attempt they only betray their own inability ; Jupiter is still Jupiter, and by their unavailing efforts they manifest his fuperiority.
Modesty is essential to true criticism: no man has a title to be a dictator in knowledge, and the sense of our own infirmities ought to teach us to treat others with
humanity. The envious critic ought to consider, that i if the authors be dead whom he censures, it is inhu
manity to trample upon their ashes with infolence; that it is cruelty to summon, implead, and condemn them with rigour and animosity, when they are not in a capacity to answer his unjuft allegations : If the authors be alive, the common laws of society oblige us not to commit any outrage against another's reputation; we ought modestly to convince, not injuriously infult; and contend for truth, not victory: and yet the envious critic is like the tyrants of old, who thought it not enough to conquer, unless their enemies were made a public spectacle, and dragged in triumph at their chariot-wheels : but what is such a triumph but a barbarous insult over the calamities of their fellowcreatures ? The noise of a day, purchased with the misery of nations ? However, I would not be thought
to be pleading for an exemption from criticism; I
would only have it circumscribed within the rules of ccandour and humanity : writers may be told of their & errors, provided it be with the decency and tenderness
of a friend, not the malice and passion of an enemy ; Ai boys may be whipped into fense, but men are to be 1 guided with reason.
If we grant the malicious critic all that he claims, and allow him to have proved his adversary's dulness, and his own acuteness, yet, as long as there is virtue in the world, modest dulness will be preferable to learned arrogance : Dulness may be a misfortune, but arrogance is a crime ; and where is the mighty advantage, if, while he discovers more learning, he is found to have less virtue than his adversary? And though he be a better critic, yet proves himself to be a worse man ? Besides, no one is to be envied the skill in finding such faults as others are so dull as to mistake for beauties. What advantage is such a quicksightedness even to the possessors of it? It makes them difficult to be pleased, and gives them pain, while others receive a pleasure : they resemble the second-sighted people in Scotland, who are fabled to see more than other persons; but all the benefit they reap from this privilege, is to discover objects of horror, ghosts, and apparitions.
But it is time to end, though I have too much reason to enlarge the argument for candour in criticism, through a consciousness of my own deficiency: I have in reality been pleading my own cause, that if I appear too guilty to obtain a pardon, I may find so much
mercy from my judges, as to be condemned to fuffer without inhumanity: But whatever be the fate of these works, they have proved of use to me, and been an agreeable amusement in a constant solitude. Providence has been pleased to lead me out of the great roads of life, into a private path; where, though we have leisure to chuse the smoothest way, yet we are all sure to meet many obstacles in the journey : I have found poetry an innocent companion, and support from the fatigues of it; how long, or how short, the future stages of it are to be, as it is uncertain, so it is a folly to be over-folicitous about it; he that lives the longest, has but the small privilege of creeping more leisurely than others to his
grave; what we call living, is in reality but a longer time of dying : and if these verses prove as Thort-lived as their author, it is a lofs not worth regretting : They only die, as they were born, in ob scurity