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My Galligaškins, which have long withstood
By time subdued (what will not time subdue !) This is admirably pathetical, and fiews 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 foon was his imagination at its full strength, his judgement 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 foon spread, and fell into the hands of pirates. It was put out, vilely mangled, by Ben Pragge; and impudently said to be correEted 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 cobler 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 themn; 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 Thewed his modefty. 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 fhilling, could not fail upon such a subject as the duke of Marlborough, which is capable of beightening even the most low and trifling genius. And, indeed, most of the great works which have been produced in the world have beert 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 work might be burnt, had not the same Augustus that desired him to write them preferved them from destruction. A scribling beau may imagine a Poet may be induced to write, by the very pleasure he finds in writing ; but that is feldom, 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 hiinfeif, in a very polite court, has been compared to the ruinbling of a wheel-barrow : he had been on the wrong fide, and therefore could not be a good poet. And obis, perhapsg 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 judgement of what is great and majestick; he must look little in their eyes, when he foars 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 compleat critick. He generally judges of the ancients by the moderns, and not the moderns by the ancients; he takes those passages of their own authors to be really sublime which come the nearest to it; he often calls that a noble and a great thought which is only a pretty and fine one, and has more instances of the fublime out of Ovid de Tristibus, than he has out of all Virgil.
I shall allow, therefore, only those to be judges of Philips, who make the ancients, and particularly Virgil, their standard.
But, before I enter on this subject, I shall consider what is particular in the style of Philips, and examine what ought to be the style of heroick poetry, and next inquire how far he is come up to that style.
His style is particular, because he lays aside rhyme, and writes in blank verse, and uses old words, and frequently postpones the adjective to the substantive, and the substantive to the verb; and leaves out little particles, a, and the; her, and his ; and uses frequent appositions. Now let us examine, whether these alterations of style be conformable to the true subliine.
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* Nothing but the reputation of the author, and his relation to the University of Oxford, can be aligned as a reason fog making
the Bodleian library the repofitory of this flimsy discourse, which, as well for the sentiments as the style, is to the lowest degree contemptible. The position respecting miniature painting is false, and its comparison with cupola painting injudicious. The expressions, elevated themes, unnatural fuftian, and the citation from Xenophon, are puerile and pedantic, and the complaints of envy and false critics common cant. There is nothing pathetic in the quotation from • The Splendid Shilling ;' nor does it give occasion for the folema semark which the writer has made on it. It is not clear to every one that the life of Cowley is more instructive, as well as more fine, than any we have in our language; nor do we know that Tom Thumb and Temple were ever set on an equal foot. It was in ridi. cule of such writers as this, that Swift wrote his . Tritical effay on the faculties of the mind.'