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displaying continually, in the following work, the various examples of his severity to Milton. Nothing is more apt to excite our spleen than a stroke of injustice against an author whom we love and revere; but I should be sorry to find myself infected by the acrimony which I was obliged to display, and I should be equally sorry to run into an opposite failing, and to indulge a spirit of obloquy, like. Mrs. Candour, in the School for Scandal, with all the grimaces of affected good nature. I have, spoken, therefore my own feelings, without bitterness and without timidity. I cannot say that I speak of Johnson fine ira “ et studio,” as Tacitus faid of other great men (very differently great !) for, in truth, I feel towards the fame object those two opposite sources of prejudice and partiality: as a critical biographer of the poets he often excites my transient indignation; but as an eloquent teacher of morality he fills me with more lasting reverence and affe&tion.
His lives of the poets will probably give birth, in this or the next century, to a work of literary retaliation. Whenever a poet arises with as large a portion of spleen towards the critical writers of past ages, as Johnson indulged towards the poets in his poetical biography, the literature of England will be enriched with “ the Lives of the Critics," a work from which you, my dear: Warton, will have little to apprehend; you, whose essay teaches, as
the critical biographer very truly and liberally observed, “ how the brow of criticism may be smoothed, and how “ The may be enabled, with all her severity, to attract " and delight.”
Yet to shew how apt a writer of verses is to accuse a profest critic of severity, we may both recollect, that when I had occasion to speak of your entertaining and instructive Essay on Pope, I scrupled not to consider the - main scope of it a little too severe; and in truth, my dear friend, I think so still; because it is the aim of that charming Essay to prove, that Pope possessed not those very high poetical talents, for which the world, though sufficiently inclined to discover and magnify his defects, had allowed him credit. You consider him as the poet of reason, and intimate that " he stooped to truth, and moralized his song," from a want of native powers to support a long flight in the higher province of fancy. To me, I confess, his Rape of the Lock appears a sufficient proof that he possessed, in a superlative degree, the faculty in which you would reduce him to a secondary rank; he chose, indeed, in many of his productions, to be the poet of reason rather than of fancy ; but I apprehend his choice was influenced by an idea (I believe a mistaken idea) that moral fatire is the species of poetry by which a poet of modern times may render the greatest service to mankind. But if in one article
have been not so kind, as I could wiih, to the
poet of morality, I rejoice in recollecting, that you are on the point of making him considerable amends, and of fulfilling a prediction of mine, by removing from the pages of Pope a great portion of the lumber with which they were amply loaded by Warburton. You will soon, I trust, prove to the literary world, as you perfectly proved to me some years ago, that the poet has fuffered not a little from the absurdities of his arrogant annotator. It is hardly possible for a man of letters, who affectionately venerates the name of Milton, and recollects fome expressions of Warburton concerning his
oncerning his poetry and his moral character, to speak of that fupercilious prelate without catching some portion of his own scornful spirit : you will immediately perceive that I allude to his having bestowed upon Milton the opprobrious title of a time-server*. Do
recollect, my dear learned critic, extensive as your studies have
* With what peculiar propriety Warburton applied this name to Milcon, the reader will best judge, who recollects the humorous Butler's very admirable character of a timeserver, which contains the following passage: “He is very zealous to “ fhew hiinself, upon all occasions,
true member of the church " for the time being, and has • not the least scruple in hís con“ science against the doctrine and dis“cipline of it, as it stands at present,
or shall do hereafter, unsight un“ seen; for he is resolved to be al
ways for the truth, which he be“ lieves is never fo plainly demon" strated as in that character that says "'it is great, and prevails ;' and in “ that fenfe only fit to be adhered to
by a prudent man, who will never be “ kinder to truth than she is to him ; “ for suffering is a very evil effekt, « and not likely to proceed from a
good cause.” Butler's Remains, yol. ii. p. 220.
been; do you recollect, in the wide range of ancient and modern defamation, a more unpardonable abuse of language? Milton, a poet of the most powerful, and, perhaps, the most independent mind that was ever given to a mere mortal, insulted with the appellation of a timeserver; and by whom? by Warburton, whose writings, and whose fortune--but I will not contemptuous prelate in his favourite exercise of reviling the literary characters, whose opinions were different from his own; his habit of indulging a contemptuous and dogmatical spirit has already drawn upon his name and writings the natural punishment of such verbal intemperance ; and the mitred follower of his fame and fortune, who has lately endeavoured to prop his reputation by a tenderly partial, but a very imperfect life of his precipitate and quarrelsome
patron, has rather lessened, perhaps, his own credit, than increased that of his master, by that affected coldness of contempt with which he describes, or rather disfigures, the illustrious chastiser of Warburtonian insolence, the more accomplished critic, of whom you eminent scholars of Winton are very justly proud; I mean the eloquent and graceful Lowth.
But as I am not fond of literary strife, however dignified and distinguished the antagonists may be, I will haften to extricate myself from this little group of contentious eritics; for it must be matter of regret to every sincere
votary of peace and benevolence to observe, that the field of literature is too frequently a field of cruelty, which almoft realizes the hyperbolical expression of Lucan, and exhibits
Plusquam civilia bella;"
where men, whose kindred studies should humanize their temper, and unite them in the ties of fraternal regard, are too apt to exert all their faculties in ferociously mangling each other; where we fometimes behold the friendship of years dissolved in a moment, and converted into furious hostility, which, though it does not endanger, yet never fails to embitter life; and perhaps the source of such contention,
“ teterrima belli
instead of being a fair and faithless Helen, is nothing more than a particle of grammar in a dead language. O that the spleen-correcting powers of mild and friendly ridicule could annihilate such hostilities !--Cannot you, my dear Warton, who have the weight and authority of a pacific Nestor in this tumultuous field, cannot you suggest effectual lenitives for the genus irritabile scriptorum. 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