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and filthy, and the language itself entirely unknown to all men of good breeding. The style of Billingsgate would not make a very agreeable figure at St. James's. A gentleman would take but little pleasure in language, which he would think it hard to be accosted in, or in reading words which he could not pronounce without blushing. The lofty burlesque is the more to be admired, because, to write it, the author must be master of two of the most different talents in nature. A talent to find out and expose what is ridiculous, is very different from that which is to raise and elevate. We must read Virgil and Milton for the one, and Horace and Hudibras for the other. We know that the authors of excellent comedies have often failed in the grave style, and the tragedian as often in comedy. Admiration and laughter are of such opposite natures, that they are seldom created by the same person. The man of mirth is always observing the follies and weaknesses, the serious writer the virtues or crimes, of mankind; one is pleased with contemplating a beau, the other a hero: even from the same object they would draw different ideas: Achilles would appear in very different lights to Thersites and Alexander. The one would admire the courage and greatness of his soul; the other would ridicule the vanity and rashness of his temper. As the satirist says to Hannibal:
“I, curre per Alpes,
Ut pueris placeas, et declamatio fias. “The contrariety of style to the subject pleases the more strongly, because it is more surprising;
the expectation of the reader is pleasantly deceived, who expects an humble style from the subject, or a great subject from the style. It pleases the more universally, because it is agreeable to the taste both of the grave and the merry; but more particularly so to those who have a relish of the best writers, and the noblest sort of poetry. I shall produce only one passage out of this poet, which is the misfortune of his galligaskins:
“My galligaskins, which have long withstood
By time subdued (what will not time subdue!) “This is admirably pathetical, and shows very well the vicissitudes of sublunary things. The rest goes on to a prodigious height; and a man in Greenland could hardly have made a more pathetick and terrible complaint. Is it not surprising that the subject should be so mean, and the verse so pompous; that the least things in his poetry, as in a microscope, should grow great and formidable to the eye ? especially considering that, not understanding French, he had no model for his style ? that he should have no writer to imitate, and himself be inimitable ? that he should do all this before he was twenty ? at an age which is usually pleased with a glare of false thoughts, little turns, and unnatural fustian? at an age, at which Cowley, Dryden, and I had almost said Virgil, were inconsiderable ? So soon was his imagination at its full strength, his judgment ripe, and his humour complete. “This poem was written for his own diversion,
without any design of publication. It was communicated but to me; but soon spread, and fell into the hands of pirates. It was put out, vilely mangled, by Ben. Bragge; and impudently said to be corrected by the author. This grievance is now grown more epidemical; and no man now has a right to his own thoughts, or a title to his own writings. Xenophon answered the Persian, who demanded his arms; 'We have nothing now left but our arms and our valour: if we surrender the one, how shall we make use of the other ?' Poets have nothing but their wits and their writings; and if they are plundered of the latter, I don't see what good the former can do them. To pirate, and publickly own it, to prefix their names to the works they steal, to own and avow the theft, I believe, was never yet heard of but in England. It will sound oddly to posterity, that, in a polite nation, in an enlightened age, under the direction of the most wise, most learned, and most generous encouragers of knowledge in the world, the property of a mechanick should be better secured than that of a scholar! that the poorest manual operations should be more valued than the noblest products of the brain! that it should be felony to rob a cobbler of a pair of shoes, and no crime to deprive the best author of his whole subsistence! that nothing should make a man a sure title to his own writings but the stupidity of them! that the works of Dryden should meet with less encouragement than those of his own Flecknoe, or Blackmore! that Tillotson and St. George, Tom Thumb and Temple, should be set on
an equal foot! This is the reason why this very paper has been so long delayed; and, while the most impudent and scandalous libels are publickly vended by the pirates, this innocent work is forced to steal abroad as if it were a libel.
“Our present writers are by these wretches reduced to the same condition Virgil was, when the centurion seized on his estate. But I don't doubt but I can fix upon the Mæcenas of the present age, that will retrieve them from it. But, whatever effect this piracy may have upon us, it contributed very much to the advantage of Mr. Philips: it helped him to a reputation which he neither desired nor expected, and to the honour of being put upon a work of which he did not think himself capable; but the event showed his modesty. And it was reasonable to hope, that he, who could raise mean subjects so high, should still be more elevated on greater themes; that he that could draw such noble ideas from a shilling, could not fail upon such a subject as the duke of Marlborough, “which is capable of heightening even the most low and trifling genius.” And, indeed, most of the great works which have been produced in the world have been owing less to the poet than the patron. Men of the greatest genius are sometimes lazy, and want a spur; often modest, and dare not venture in publick: they certainly know their faults in the worst things; and even their best things they are not fond of, because the idea of what they ought to be is far above what they are. This induced me to believe that Virgil desired his works
might be burnt, had not the same Augustus that desired him to write them, preserved them from destruction. A scribbling beau may imagine a poet may be induced to write, by the very pleasure he finds in writing; but that is seldom, when people are necessitated to it. I have known men row, and use very hard labour, for diversion, which, if they had been tied to, they would have thought themselves very unhappy.
“But to return to Blenheim, that work so much admired by some, and censured by others. I have often wished he had wrote it in Latin, that he might be out of the reach of the empty criticks, who could have as little understood his meaning in that language as they do his beauties in his own.
“False criticks have been the plague of all ages; Milton himself, in a very polite court, has been compared to the rumbling of a wheelbarrow: he had been on the wrong side, and, therefore, could not be a good poet. And this, perhaps, may be Mr. Philips's case.
“But I take, generally, the ignorance of his readers to be the occasion of their dislike. People that have formed their taste upon the French writers can have no relish for Philips: they admire points and turns, and, consequently, have no judgment of what is great and majestick; he must look little in their eyes, when he soars so high as to be almost out of their view. I cannot, therefore, allow any admirer of the French to be a judge of Blenheim, nor any who takes Bouhours for a complete critick. He gen