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book in the country, that he did it to pass away some of his idle hours, that it was published at the importunity of friends, or that his natural temper, studies, or conversations, directed him to the choice of his subject.
Id populus curat scilicet.
Such informations cannot but be highly improving to the reader.
In works of humour, especially when a man writes under a fictitious personage, the talking of one's self may give some diversion to the public; but I would advise every other writer, never to speak of himself, unless there be something very considerable in his character: though I am sensible this rule will be of little use in the world, because there is no man who fancies his thoughts worth publishing, that does not look upon himself as a considerable person.
I shall close this paper with a remark upon such as are egotists in conversation: these are generally the vain or shallow part of mankind, people beiug naturally full of themselves when they have nothing else in them. There is one kind of egotists which is very common in the world, though I do not remember that any writer has taken notice of them; I mean those empty conceited fellows, who repeat as sayings of their own, or some of their particular friends, several jests which were made before they were born, and which every one, who has conversed in the world, has heard a hundred times over. A forward young fellow of my acquaintance was very guilty of this absurdity: he would be always laying a new scene for some old piece of wit, and telling us, that as he and Jack Sucha-one were together, one or t'other of them had such a conceit on such an occasion; upon which he would laugh very heartily, and wonder the company did not join with him. When his mirth was over, I have often reprehended him out of Terence, Tuumne, ob
secro te, hoc dictum erat? vetus credidi. But finding him still incorrigible, and having a kindness for the young coxcomb, who was otherwise a good-natured felow, I recommended to his perusal the Oxford and Cambridge jests, with several little pieces of pleasantry of the same nature. Upon the reading of them, he was under no small confusion to find that his jokes had passed through several editions, and that what he thought was a new conceit, and had appro priated to his own use, had appeared in print before he or his ingenious friends were ever heard of. This had so good an effect upon him, that he is content at present to pass for a man of plain sense in his conversation, and is never facetious but when he knows his company.
EPISTOLARY POETICAL WRITING.
Neque enim concludere versum Dixeris esse satis: neque siquis scribat, uti nos, Sermoni propiora, putes hunc esse poetam.
'Tis not enough the measur'd feet to close; Nor will you give a poet's name to those, Whose humble verse, like mine, approaches prose.
IINTEND to offer some remarks upon the epistolatory way of writing in verse. This is a species of poetry by itself; and has not so much as been hinted at in any of the arts of poetry, that have ever fallen into my hands: neither has it in any age, or in any nation, been so much cultivated, as the other several
kinds of poesy. A man of genius may, if he pleases, write letters in verse upon all manner of subjects, that are capable of being embellished with wit and lan guage, and may render them new and agreeable by C2
giving the proper turn to them. But in speaking, at present, of epistolary poetry, I would be understood to meau-only such writings in this kind, as have been in use among the ancients, and have been copied from them by some moderns. These may be reduced into two classes: in the one I shall range love-letters, letters of friendship, and letters upon mournful occasions: in the other I shall place such epistles in verse as may properly be called familiar, critical, and moral; to which may be added letters of mirth and humour. Ovid for the first, and Horace for the latter, are the best originals we have left.
He that is ambitious of succeeding in the Ovidian way, should first examine his heart well, and feel whether his passions (especially those of the gentler kind) play easy, since it is not his wit, but the delicacy and tenderness of his sentiments, that will affect his readHis versification likewise should be soft, and all his numbers flowing and querulous.
The qualifications requisite for writing epistles, after the model given us by Horace, are of a quite different nature. He that would excel in this kind must have a good fund of strong masculine sense to this there must be joined a thorough knowledge of mankind, together with an insight into the business, and the prevailing humours of the age. Our author must have his mind well seasoned with the finest precepts of morality, and be filled with nice reflections upon the bright and dark sides of human life; he must be a master of refined raillery, and understand the delicacies as well as the absurdities of conversation. He must have a lively turn of wit, with an easy and concise manner of expression: every thing he says must be in a free and disengaged manner. He must be guilty of nothing that betrays the air of a recluse, but appear a man of the world throughout. His illustrations, his comparisons, and the greatest part of his images, must be drawn from common life. Strokes of satire and -criticism, as well as panegyric, judiciously thrown in,
(and as it were by the by) give a wonderful life and ornanient to compositions of this kind. But let our poet, while he writes epistles, though never so familiar, still remember that be writes in verse, and must for that reason have a more than ordinary care not to fall into prose, and a vulgar diction, excepting where the nature and humour of the things does necessarily require it. In this point Horace hath been thought by some critics to be sometimes careless, as well as too negligent of his versification; of which he seems to have been sensible himself.
Both these manners of writing may be made as entertaining, in their way, as any other species of poetry, if undertaken by persons duly qualified; and the latter sort may be managed so as to become in a peculiar manner instructive.
Subjects of the most sublime nature are often treated in the epistolary way with advantage, as in the famous epistle of Horace to Augustus. The poet sur. prises us with his pomp, and seems rather betrayed into his subject, than to have aimed at it by design. He appears, like the visit of a king incognito, with a mixture of familiarity and grandeur. In works of this kind, when the dignity of the subject hurries thé poet into descriptions and sentiments, seemingly unpremeditated, by a sort of inspiration; it is usual for him to recollect himself, and fall back gracefully into the natural style of a letter.
VIEW OF THE SEA MAJESTIC. · Βαθυρρειται μεγα σθενΘ' Ωκεανοιο. The mighty force of ocean's troubled flood. OF all objects that I have ever seen, there is none
which affects my imagination so much as the sea or ocean. I cannot see the heavings of this prodigious bulk of water, even in a calm, without a very pleas. ing astonishment; but when it is worked up in a tem pest, so that the horizon on every side is nothing but foaming billows and floating mountains, it is impossible to describe the agreeable horror that rises from such a prospect. A troubled ocean, to a man who sails upon it, is, I think, the biggest object that he can see in motion, and consequently gives his imagination one of the highest kinds of pleasure that can arise from greatness. I must confess it is impossible for me to survey this world of fluid matter, without thinking on the hand that first poured it out, and made a proper chanuel for its reception. Such an object naturally raises in my thoughts the idea of an Almighty Being, and convinces me of his existence as niuch as a metaphy. sical demonstration. The imagination prompts the understanding, and, by the greatness of the sensible object, produces in it the idea of a being who is neither circumscribed by time nor space.
As I have made several voyages upon the sea, I have often been tossed in storms, and on that occasion have frequently reflected on the descriptions of them in ancient poets. I remember Longinus highly recommends one in Homer, because the poet has not amused himself with little fancies upon the occasion, as authors of an inferior genius, whom he mentions, had done, but because he has gathered together those circumstances which are the most apt to terrify the imagination, and which really happen in the raging