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ject of poetry, with some little exception, perhaps, as to your old friend Ben Jonson, we are generally agreed ; and no two persons can be more firmly persuaded, that there is but one thing happier than friendship, and nothing better than principle.
Your's most sincerely,
SURREY GAOL, January 10th, 1814.
As the following little piece, which was first published in a magazine* privately set up, and not enjoying the usual means of continuance, attracted a degree of attention which was thought to promise still more for it if presented to the public in a different manner, the author has been induced to give it such revision and enlargement, as may strengthen, perhaps, its claims on their good opinion. For this purpose he has considerably increased the text, and added almost the whole of the present notes. The latter, it is true, after all, are rather results of criticism, than criticism itself; and the smallness of the poem, perhaps, hardly warranted even this ; but he was anxious to show that he had at least considered the subjects of which he talked, and was particularly desirous of doing justice to a great living poet, of whom, in the first instance, led away by the impatience of seeing him pervert his genius, he had suffered himself to speak with unqualified, and therefore unbecoming, distaste.
* The Refleotor.
What praise or censure he may have bestowed on any one, has at least the merit of being sincere. He has many warm feelings upon every subject of public concern, poetical as well as political, but none, he trusts, of an ill tempered, still less of a personal nature,* and least of all, if possi
* It is an unpleasant thing for an author to balk the numour of one of his passages. For the modern dra. matists, as a body, it is almost needless in the present writer to express his contempt; and some of them, even as men, deserve to be handled with little ceremony for their fopperies or vulgarities. But a line has escaped him respecting one of them, for which he is sorry, both on account of the general character of the individual, and the nature of the allusion, which involves a personality not warrantable by any circumstances but those of coxcomical pretension, or gross origin. It is the first of the kind, he believes, that ever came from his pen. Mr. Cobb, however, though not a good dramatist, is said to be a sensible and good tempered man, and has probably thought nothing about the passage, or felt more for the
ble, towards such persons as might be supposed the most to have excited them. For some of these persons, who are men of virtue as well as ability, he has all the respect which their own eccentricities will allow ; and for others, who have neither ability nor virtue, his pity stands in the place of a higher feeling, and he can forgive to their common nature as men, what he must not overlook in their example as characters.This, however, is deviating into politics.
Like most of the poetical inventions of modern times, the idea of Apollo's holding Bessions and elections is of Italian origin; but having been treated in its most ordinary light, with the degradation of the God into a mere critic or chairman, it has hitherto received none of those touches of painting, and combinations of the familiar and fanciful, of which it appears so provocative, and which the present trifle is an attempt to supply. The pieces it has already produced in our language are, the Session of the
writer than for himself in seeing it. Should the publieation go to press a second time, it shall be altered.
Poets, by Sir John Suckling; another Ses. sion, by an anonymous author, in the first volume of State Poems; the Trial for the Bays, by Lord Rochester; and the Election of a Poet Laureat, by Sheffield, Duke? of Buckingham. They are, for the most part, vulgar and poor, with that strange affectation of slovenliness, which the lower species of satire, in those times, appears to have mistaken for a vigorous negligence er gallant undress.
But the author is getting on his critical ground again, and forgets that he must now be regarded as having entered his own road of pretension, and be criticised as a poet himself. The necessity is rather perplexing to one who has been making so free with others, and who scarcely considers hiinself as having finished his own studies in poetry ; but as it is he has subjoined to the Feast of the Poets a few little pieces of a graver description, in order that those, who, in return for being lightly regarded, are eager to make accusations of levity,