No. 253. Thursday, December 20, 1711. Addison.

Indignor quicquam reprehendi, non quia crasse Compositum, illepideve putetur, sed quia nuper.

There is nothing which more denotes a great Mind, than the Abhorrence of Envy and Detraction. This Passion reigns more among bad Poets, than among any other Set of Men.

As there are none more ambitious of Fame, than those who are conversant in Poetry, it is very natural for such as have not succeeded in it to depreciate the Works of those who have. For since they cannot raise themselves to the Reputation of their Fellow-Writers, they must endeavour to sink it to their own Pitch, if they would still keep themselves upon a Level with them.

The greatest Wits that ever were produced in one Age, lived together in so good an Understanding, and celebrated one another with so much Generosity, that each of them receives an additional Lustre from his Contemporaries, and is more famous for having lived with Men of so extraordinary a Genius, than if he had himself been the [sole Wonder [1]] of the Age. I need not tell my Reader, that I here point at the Reign of Augustus, and I believe he will be of my Opinion, that neither Virgil nor Horace would have gained so great a Reputation in the World, had they not been the Friends and Admirers of each other. Indeed all the great Writers of that Age, for whom singly we have so great an Esteem, stand up together as Vouchers for one anothers Reputation. But at the same time that Virgil was celebrated by Gallus, Propertius, Horace, Varius, Tucca and Ovid, we know that Bavius and Maevius were his declared Foes and Calumniators.

In our own Country a Man seldom sets up for a Poet, without attacking the Reputation of all his Brothers in the Art. The Ignorance of the Moderns, the Scribblers of the Age, the Decay of Poetry, are the Topicks of Detraction, with which he makes his Entrance into the World: But how much more noble is the Fame that is built on Candour and Ingenuity, according to those beautiful Lines of Sir John Denham, in his Poem on Fletchers Works!

But whither am I strayed? I need not raise Trophies to thee from other Mens Dispraise: Nor is thy Fame on lesser Ruins built, Nor needs thy juster Title the foul Guilt Of Eastern Kings, who, to secure their Reign, Must have their Brothers, Sons, and Kindred slain.

I am sorry to find that an Author, who is very justly esteemed among the best Judges, has admitted some Stroaks of this Nature into a very fine Poem; I mean The Art of Criticism, which was publish'd some Months since, and is a Master-piece in its kind. [2] The Observations follow one another like those in Horace's Art of Poetry, without that methodical Regularity which would have been requisite in a Prose Author. They are some of them uncommon, but such as the Reader must assent to, when he sees them explained with that Elegance and Perspicuity in which they are delivered. As for those which are the most known, and the most received, they are placed in so beautiful a Light, and illustrated with such apt Allusions, that they have in them all the Graces of Novelty, and make the Reader, who was before acquainted with them, still more convinced of their Truth and Solidity. And here give me leave to mention what Monsieur Boileau has so very well enlarged upon in the Preface to his Works, that Wit and fine Writing doth not consist so much in advancing Things that are new, as in giving Things that are known an agreeable Turn. It is impossible for us, who live in the lat[t]er Ages of the World, to make Observations in Criticism, Morality, or in any Art or Science, which have not been touched upon by others. We have little else left us, but to represent the common Sense of Mankind in more strong, more beautiful, or more uncommon Lights. If a Reader examines Horace's Art of Poetry, he will find but very few Precepts in it, which he may not meet with in Aristotle, and which were not commonly known by all the Poets of the Augustan Age. His Way of expressing and applying them, not his Invention of them, is what we are chiefly to admire.

For this Reason I think there is nothing in the World so tiresome as the Works of those Criticks who write in a positive Dogmatick Way, without either Language, Genius, or Imagination. If the Reader would see how the best of the Latin Criticks writ, he may find their Manner very beautifully described in the Characters of Horace, Petronius, Quintilian, and Longinus, as they are drawn in the Essay of which I am now speaking.

Since I have mentioned Longinus, who in his Reflections has given us the same kind of Sublime, which he observes in the several passages that occasioned them; I cannot but take notice, that our English Author has after the same manner exemplified several of his Precepts in the very Precepts themselves. I shall produce two or three Instances of this Kind. Speaking of the insipid Smoothness which some Readers are so much in Love with, he has the following Verses.

These_ Equal Syllables alone require, Tho oft the Ear the open Vowels tire, While Expletives their feeble Aid do _join, And ten low Words oft creep in one dull Line.

The gaping of the Vowels in the second Line, the Expletive do in the third, and the ten Monosyllables in the fourth, give such a Beauty to this Passage, as would have been very much admired in an Ancient Poet. The Reader may observe the following Lines in the same View.

A needless Alexandrine ends the Song, That like a wounded Snake, drags its slow Length along.

And afterwards,

Tis not enough no Harshness gives Offence, The Sound must seem an Eccho to the Sense. Soft is the Strain when Zephyr gently blows, And the smooth Stream in smoother Numbers flows; But when loud Surges lash the sounding Shore, The hoarse rough Verse shou'd like the Torrent roar. When Ajax strives some Rocks vast Weight to throw, The Line too labours, and the Words move slow; Not so, when swift Camilla scours the Plain, Flies o'er th' unbending Corn, and skims along the Main.

The beautiful Distich upon Ajax in the foregoing Lines, puts me in mind of a Description in Homer's Odyssey, which none of the Criticks have taken notice of. [3] It is where Sisyphus is represented lifting his Stone up the Hill, which is no sooner carried to the top of it, but it immediately tumbles to the Bottom. This double Motion of the Stone is admirably described in the Numbers of these Verses; As in the four first it is heaved up by several Spondees intermixed with proper Breathing places, and at last trundles down in a continual Line of Dactyls.

[Greek: Kaì màen Sisyphon eiseidon, kratér alge échonta, Laan Bastázonta pelôrion amphotéraesin. Aetoi ho mèn skaeriptómenos chersín te posín te, Laan anô ôtheske potì lóphon, all hote mélloi Akron hyperbaléein, tot apostrépsaske krataiis, Autis épeita pédonde kylíndeto laas anaidáes.]

It would be endless to quote Verses out of Virgil which have this particular Kind of Beauty in the Numbers; but I may take an Occasion in a future Paper to shew several of them which have escaped the Observation of others.

I cannot conclude this Paper without taking notice that we have three Poems in our Tongue, which are of the same Nature, and each of them a Master-Piece in its Kind; the Essay on Translated Verse [4], the Essay on the Art of Poetry [5], and the Essay upon Criticism.

[Footnote 1: [single Product]]

[Footnote 2: At the time when this paper was written Pope was in his twenty-fourth year. He wrote to express his gratitude to Addison and also to Steele. In his letter to Addison he said,

Though it be the highest satisfaction to find myself commended by a Writer whom all the world commends, yet I am not more obliged to you for that than for your candour and frankness in acquainting me with the error I have been guilty of in speaking too freely of my brother moderns.

The only moderns of whom he spoke slightingly were men of whom after-time has ratified his opinion: John Dennis, Sir Richard Blackmore, and Luke Milbourne. When, not long afterwards, Dennis attacked with his criticism Addison's Cato, to which Pope had contributed the Prologue, Pope made this the occasion of a bitter satire on Dennis, called The Narrative of Dr. Robert Norris (a well-known quack who professed the cure of lunatics) upon the Frenzy J. D. Addison then, through Steele, wrote to Popes publisher of this manner of treating Mr. Dennis, that he could not be privy to it, and was sorry to hear of it. In 1715, when Pope issued to subscribers the first volume of Homer, Tickell's translation of the first book of the Iliad appeared in the same week, and had particular praise at Buttons from Addison, Tickell's friend and patron. Pope was now indignant, and expressed his irritation in the famous satire first printed in 1723, and, finally, with the name of Addison transformed to Atticus, embodied in the Epistle to Arbuthnot published in 1735. Here, while seeing in Addison a man

Blest with each talent and each art to please, And born to live, converse, and write with ease,

he said that should he, jealous of his own supremacy, damn with faint praise, as one

Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike, Just hint the fault and hesitate dislike, Who when two wits on rival themes contest, Approves of both, but likes the worse the best: Like Cato, give his little Senate laws, And sits attentive to his own applause; While wits and templars every sentence raise: And wonder with a foolish face of praise: Who would not laugh if such a man there be? Who would not weep if Addison were he?

But in this Spectator paper young Popes Essay on Criticism certainly was not damned with faint praise by the man most able to give it a firm standing in the world.]

[Footnote 3: Odyssey Bk. XI. In Ticknell's edition of Addison's works the latter part of this sentence is omitted; the same observation having been made by Dionysius of Halicarnassus.]

[Footnote 4: Wentworth Dillon, Earl of Roscommon, author of the Essay on Translated Verse, was nephew and godson to Wentworth, Earl of Strafford. He was born in Ireland, in 1633, educated at the Protestant University of Caen, and was there when his father died. He travelled in Italy, came to England at the Restoration, held one or two court offices, gambled, took a wife, and endeavoured to introduce into England the principals of criticism with which he had found the polite world occupied in France. He planned a society for refining our language and fixing its standard. During the troubles of King James's reign he was about to leave the kingdom, when his departure was delayed by gout, of which he died in 1684. A foremost English representative of the chief literary movement of his time, he translated into blank verse Horace's Art of Poetry, and besides a few minor translations and some short pieces of original verse, which earned from Pope the credit that

in all Charles's days Roscommon only boasts unspotted lays,

he wrote in heroic couplets an Essay on Translated Verse that was admired by Dryden, Addison, and Pope, and was in highest honour wherever the French influence upon our literature made itself felt. Roscommon believed in the superior energy of English wit, and wrote himself with care and frequent vigour in the turning of his couplets. It is from this poem that we get the often quoted lines,

Immodest words admit of no Defence: For Want of Decency is Want of Sense.]

[Footnote 5: The other piece with which Addison ranks Popes Essay on Criticism, was by John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, who was living when the Spectator first appeared. He died, aged 72, in the year 1721. John Sheffield, by the death of his father, succeeded at the age of nine to the title of Earl of Mulgrave. In the reign of Charles II he served by sea and land, and was, as well as Marlborough, in the French service. In the reign of James II. he was admitted into the Privy Council, made Lord Chamberlain, and, though still Protestant, attended the King to mass. He acquiesced in the Revolution, but remained out of office and disliked King William, who in 1694 made him Marquis of Normanby. Afterwards he was received into the Cabinet Council, with a pension of £3000. Queen Anne, to whom Walpole says he had made love before her marriage, highly favoured him. Before her coronation she made him Lord Privy Seal, next year he was made first Duke of Normanby, and then of Buckinghamshire, to exclude any latent claimant to the title, which had been extinct since the miserable death of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, the author of the Rehearsal. When the Spectator appeared John Sheffield had just built Buckingham House--now a royal palace--on ground granted by the Crown, and taken office as Lord Chamberlain. He wrote more verse than Roscommon and poorer verse. The Essay on Poetry, in which he followed the critical fashion of the day, he was praised into regarding as a masterpiece. He was continually polishing it, and during his lifetime it was reissued with frequent variations. It is polished quartz, not diamond; a short piece of about 360 lines, which has something to say of each of the chief forms of poetry, from songs to epics. Sheffield shows most natural force in writing upon plays, and here in objecting to perfect characters, he struck out the often-quoted line

A faultless monster which the world ne'er saw.

When he comes to the epics he is, of course, all for Homer and Virgil.

Read Homer once, and you can read no more; For all books else appear so mean, so poor, Verse will seem Prose; but still persist to read, And Homer will be all the Books you need.

And then it is supposed that some Angel had disclosed to M. Bossu, the French author of the treatise upon Epic Poetry then fashionable, the sacred mysteries of Homer. John Sheffield had a patronizing recognition for the genius of Shakespeare and Milton, and was so obliging as to revise Shakespeare's Julius Cæsar and confine the action of that play within the limits prescribed in the French gospel according to the Unities. Pope, however, had in the Essay on Criticism reckoned Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, among the sounder few

Who durst assert the juster ancient Cause And have restored Wits Fundamental Laws. Such was the Muse, whose Rules and Practice tell, Natures chief Masterpiece is writing well.

With those last words which form the second line in the Essay on Poetry Popes citation has made many familiar. Addison paid young Pope a valid compliment in naming him as a critic in verse with Roscommon, and, what then passed on all hands for a valid compliment, in holding him worthy also to be named as a poet in the same breath with the Lord Chamberlain.]

Translation of motto:
HOR. 1 Ep. ii. 76.
'I feel my honest indignation rise,
When with affected air a coxcomb cries,
The work I own has elegance and ease,
But sure no modern should presume to please.'