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<< Curl'd gently by the breeze, falutes the flowers "That grace its banks! in state the fnowy fwans "Arch their proud necks, and fowls of various plume << Innumerous, native or exotic, cleave
The dancing wave! while o'er th' adjoining lawns Obverted to the fouthern funs, the deer "Wide-spreading graze, or ftarting bound away
In crouds, then turning, filent ftand, and gaze! "Such are thy beauties, Rainham, fuch the haunts "Of angels, in primæval guiltless days,
"When man imparadis'd convers'd with God."
This, my Lord, is but a faint picture of the place of your retirement, which no one ever enjoyed more elegantly no part of your life lies heavy upon you; there is no uneafy vacancy in it; it is all filled up with study, exercife, or polite amufement: here you fhine in the most agreeable, though not most strong and dazzling light In your public ftation you commanded admiration and honour; in your private, you attract love and eiteem: The nobler parts of your life will be the fubject of the hiftorian; and the actions of the great ftatesman and patriot, will adorn many pages of our future annals but the affectionate father, the indulgent mafter, the condefcending and benevolent friend, patron, and companion, can only be described by those who have the pleasure and happiness to fee you act in all thofe relations: I could with delight enlarge upon this amiable part of your character; but am fenfible that no B 3
portion of your time is fo ill spent as in reading what write. I will therefore only beg the honour to fubfcribe myself,
AM very fenfible that many hard circumftances attend all authors: if they write ill, they are fure to be used with contempt; if well, too often with = envy. Some men, even while they improve themselves with the fentiments of others, rail at their benefactors, and while they gather the fruit, tear the tree that bore Iit. I must confefs, that mere idleness induced me to write; and the hopes of entertaining a few idle men, to publish. I am not fo vain as not to think there are many faults in the enfuing poems; all human works muft fall fhort of perfection, and therefore to acknowledge it, is no humility: however, I am not like those authors, who, out of a falfe modefty, complain of the imperfections of their own works, yet would take it very ill if the world fhould believe them: I will not add hypocrify to my other faults, or act so abfurdly as to invite the reader to an entertainment, and then tell him that there is nothing worth his eating; I have furnished out the table according to my best abilities, if not with a fplendid elegance, yet at least with an innocent variety.
But fince this is the last time that I fhall ever, perhaps, trouble the world in this kind, I will beg leave to fpeak fomething not as a poet, but a critic; that if any credit fhould fail as a poet, I may have recourfe to my remarks
remarks upon Homer, and be pardoned for my industry as the annotator in part upon the Iliad, and entirely the Odyffey.
I will therefore offer a few things upon criticism in general, a study very neceffary, but fallen into contempt through the abuse of it. At the restoration of learning, it was particularly neceflary; authors had been long buried in obfcurity, and confequently had contracted fome ruft through the ignorance and barbarism of preceding ages it was therefore very requifite that they fhould be polished by a critical hand, and restored to their original purity: In this confifts the office of critics; but, inftead of making copies agreeable to the manufcripts, they have long inferted their own conjectures; and from this licence arife moft of the various readings, the burthens of modern editions: whereas books are like pictures, they may be new varnished, but not a feature is to be altered; and every ftroke that is thus added, deftroys in fome degree the refemblance; and the original is no longer an Homer or a Virgil, but a mere ideal perfon, the creature of the editor's fancy. Whoever deviates from this rule, does not correct, but corrupt his author: and therefore fince most books worth reading have now good impreffions, it is a folly to devote too much time to this branch of criticifin; it is ridiculous to make it the fupreme bufinefs of life to repair the ruins of a decayed word, to trouble the world with vain niceties about a letter, or a fyllable, or the tranfpofition of a phrafe, when the prefent reading is fuficiently intelligible. Thefe learned triflers are mere weeders
weeders of an author; they collect the weeds for their own ufe, and permit others to gather the herbs and flowers it would be of more advantage to mankind, when once an author is faithfully published, to turn our thoughts from the words to the fentiments, and make them more eafy and intelligible. A fkill in verbal
criticifin is in reality but a skill in gueffing, and confequently he is the best critic who guesses beft: a mighty attainment! And yet with what pomp is a trivial alteration ufhered into the world! Such writers are like Caligula, who raifed a mighty army, and alarmed the whole world, and then led it to gather cockle-fhells. In short, the question is not what the author might have faid, but what he has actually faid; it is not whether a different word will agree with the fenfe, and turn of the period, but whether it was ufed by the author; if it was, it has a good title fill to maintain its post, and the authority of the manufcript ought to be followed rather than the fancy of the editor: for can a modern be a better judge of the language of the pureft of the antients, than thofe antients who wrote it in the greatest purity? or if he could, was ever any author fo happy, as always to choose the most proper word? Experience fhews the impoffibility. Befides, of what ufe is verbal criticifin when once we have a faithful edition? It embarraffes the reader instead of giving new light, and hinders his proficiency by engroffing his time, and calling off the attention from the author to the editor: it encreases the expence of books, and makes us pay an high price for trifles, and often for abfurdities. I will only add, with