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Warton, who have the weight and authority of a pacific Nestor in this tumultuous field, cannot you suggest effectual lenitives for the
irritabile fcripiorum. The celebrated Saxon painter Mengs has, I think, given us all an admirable hint of this kind in writing to an ingenious but petulant Frenchman, who had provoked him by speaking contemptuously of his learned and enthusiastic friend Winkelman. Se io possedesfi il talento di scriver bene (says the modest painter) vorrei esporre ragioni, e fatti, e insegnar cose utili senza perdermi a contradir veruno poiche mi sembra, che si possan fare buoni libri senza dire, che il tale, o il tal fogetto s' inganna ; e finalmente se ella mi puo dimostrare, che la maldicenza fia cosa honesta, allora io converrò che importa molto poco
il modo, con cui si attacca la riputazione del prossimo: e aggiungo che il sarcasmo e l'insulto sono la peggior maniera di mormorare, e di biasimare donde risulta sempre il maggior danno a chi lo usa.-Opere di Mengs, tomo primo, p. 243.
These admonitions are excellent, and want only the good example of the monitor to make them complete ; but Mengs, unfortunately, in
his professional writings, has spoken of Reynolds in a manner that .grossly violates his own doctrine; so difficult is it, my good Doctor, to find a pacific preacher and his practice in perfect harmony with each other.
To feeling and fervent spirits there can hardly be any provocation more apt to excite asperity of language, than an insult offered to an object of their esteem and veneration. upon Milton, and those who, to my apprehension, have insulted his name with contumelious severity, I may have been hurried beyond the bias of my temper, which is, I trust, neither irascible nor censorious; but I will imitate some well meaning catholic writers, and making you, my dear Warton, my inquisitor as well as my patron, I will here very honestly say to you, “ Si quid dixerim contra spiritum caritatis evangelicæ indi&tum volo.”
Let me now hasten to apologize to you, as I think I ought, for such deficiencies as your nice discernment cannot fail to observe in the work I address to you. You remember that Plutarch, the amiable prince of ancient biographers, has very justly mentioned the ad
vantage arising to a writer from residing in a city amply furnished with bocks ;--it is you know, to live in a little fequestered village, and I chuse to do so for the reason which attached the good-:iatured Plutarch to his native Cheronta, tha
i may not become less. Had it suited me to devote much time and labour to extcntive rebarches in the public and private libraries of London, it is pofliblc that I might have discovered come laient anecdotes relating to Miiton; yet after the patient inquiries of the intelligent and indefatigable Dr. Birch, and after the fignal discovery of your more successful brother, little novelty could be expected to reward the toil of such investigation; and perhaps a writer too eager to make new discoveries on this beaten ground, might be hurried by such eagerness into the censurable temerity of Peck the antiquarian, who, in his memoirs of the great poet, has affixed the name of Milton to a portrait and a poem that do not belong to him.
Though my work has been executed in a retired village of England, my enquiries have extended far beyond the limits of our own country, by the aid of some intelligent and
obliging friends, who had the kindness to search for me the great libraries of Paris and Rome, in the hope of discovering some neglected composition, or latent anecdote, that might be useful to a biographer of Milton. The success of these researches has not been equal to the kindness and the zeal of the intelligent enquirers; but an unexpected favour from a literary friend, who is known to me only by his writings, has enabled me to throw, perhaps, a new ray of light on that inviting subject of conjecture, the real origin of Milton's greatest performance.
In the differtation, which I have annexed to this life of the poet, you will find some account of an Italian drama on the inhabitants of Paradise, which, though it rises not to the poetical spirit of Andreini, may have had some influence, I apprehend, on the fancy of Milton. You will also find, that I have followed
your example, in recommending your old acquaintance Andreini to the notice of the public. He happened to engage my attention, when the health of my revered friend, Mr. Cowper, allowed him to be my guest; and, after our more serious morning studies, it afforded us a pleasant relax
ation and amusement to throw some parts of the Adamo into English, in a rapid yet metrical translation. In this joint work, or rather paftime, it would be needless, if it were possible, to distinguish the lines of the united translators, as the version had no higher aim than to gratify the curiosity of the English reader, without afpiring to praise. A very different character is due to that version of Milton's Latin poetry, which my excellent friend has finished with such care and felicity, that even from the sea parate specimens of it, with which this life is embellished, you, my
dear Warton, and every delicate judge of poetry, will, I am confident, esteem it an absolute model of poetical translation. For the honour of Milton, and for that of his most worthy interpreter, I hope that the whole of this admirable performance may be foon imparted to the public, as I trust that returning health will happily restore its incomparable author to his suspended studies event that
affect the moral interest and the mental delight of all the world--for rarely, very rarely indeed, has heaven bestowed on any individual such an ample, such a variegated por