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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
be finoothed, “ and how she 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 Effay 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 charm. ing Essay to prove, that Pope poffeffed 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 « fong," from a want of native powers to fupport 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 fuperlative degree, the faculty in which' you would reduce him to a fecondary 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 satire is the species of poetry by which a poet of modern times may render the greatest service to ‘mankind. But if in one article you have been not so kind, as I could wish, 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 fome years ago, that the poet has suffered 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 some expressions of Warburton concerning his poetry and his moral character, to speak of that supercilious prelate without catching some portion of his own scornfui fpirit: you will immediately perceive that I allude to his having bestowed upon
Milton the opprobrious title of a time-server *. Do
you recollect, my dear learned critic, extensive as your studies have 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,
* With what peculiar propriety Warburton applied this name to Milton, the reader will best judge, who recollects the humorous Butler's very admirable character of a țime-server, which contains the following passage : “ He is very zealous to « shew himself, upon all occafions, a true member of the church “ for the time being, and has not the least scruple in his con. " science against the do&trine and discipline of it, as it stands at “ present, or shall do hereafter, unfight unseen; for he is « resolved to be always for the truth, which he believes is never “ fo plainly demonstrated as in that character that lays • it is “ great, and prevails ;' and in that sense 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 effeli, and not likely “ to proceed from a good cause." Butler's Remains, vol. ii.
and, perhaps, the most independent mind that was ever given to a mere mortal, insulted with the appellation of a time-server; and by whom? by Warburton, whose writings, and whose fortune-but I will not copy the 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
reputation by a tenderly partial, but a very imperfect life of his precipitate and quarrelsome patron, has rather leffened, perhaps, his own credit, than increased that of his master, by that affe Ned 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 Lowrh,
But as I am not fond of literary strife, however dignified and distinguished the antagonists
may be, I will hasten to extricate myself from this little
of contentious critics'; 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 almost 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 sometimes 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,
66 teterrima belli 6 Causa"
instead of being a fair and faithless Helen, is nothing more than a particle of grammar in a dead language. that the spleen-correcting powers of mild and friendly ridicule could annihilate such hoßilities ! 4-Cannot you, my dear