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me, had not my credit and my interest been blasted, or thought to be blasted, by the shade which it cast from its boundless elevation.
About ten years ago, I published an edition of Dr. Johnston's translation of the Psalms, and having procured from the general assembly of the church of Scotland, a recommendation of its use to the lower classes of grammar-schools, into which I had begun to introduce it, though not without much controversy and opposition; I thought it likely that I should, by annual publications, improve my little fortune, and be enabled to support myself in freedom from the miseries of indigence. But Mr. Pope, in his malevolence to Mr. Benson, who had distinguished himself by his fondness for the same version, de. stroyed all my hopes by a distich, in which he places Johnston in a contemptuous comparison with the author of Paradise Lost t.
From antistitum, illustriumque Angliæ viorum cæmeterio, vir ornatissie mus, Gulielmus Benson prosecutus est.
Poetarum Scotorum Musæ Sacræ in præfatione, Edinb. 1739. A character, as high and honourable as ever was bestowed upon him by the most sanguine of his admirers ! and as this was my cool and sincere opinion of that wonderful man formerly, so I declare it to be the sanie still, and ever will be, notwithstanding all appearances to the contrary, occasioned merely by passion and resentment ; which appear, however, by the Postscript to the Essay, to be so far from extending to the posterity of Vitton, that I recommend his only remaining descendant, in the warmest terms, to the public.
# On two unequal crutches prop'd he *came
Dunciad. Book IV. • Benson.] This man endeavoured to raise himself to fame, by erecting monuments, striking coins, and procuring translations of
From this time, all my praises of Johnston became ridiculous, and I was censured with great freedom, for forcing upon the schools, an author whom Mr. Pope had mentioned only as a foil to a better poet. On this occasion, it was natural not to be pleased, and my resentment seeking to discharge itself some where, was unhappily directed against Milton. I resolved to attack his fame, and found some passages in cursory reading, which gave me hopes of stigmatising him as a plagiary. The farther I carried my search, the more eager I grew for the dis. covery, and the more my hypothesis was opposed, the more I was heated with rage. The consequence of my blind passion, I need not relate; it has, by your detection, become apparent to mankind. Nor do I mention this provocation as adequate to the fury which I have shown, but as a cause of anger, less shameful and reproachful than fractious malice, personal envy, or national jealousy.
Milton; and afterwards by a great passion for Arthur Johnston, a Scots physician's version of the Psalms, of which he printed many fine editions. Notes on the Dunciad.
No fewer than six different editions of that useful and valuable book, two in quarto, two in octavo, and two in a lesser form, now lie like lumber in the hand of Mr. Vaillant, bookseller, the effects of Mr. Pope's ill-natured criticism.
One of these editions in quarto, illustrated with an interpretation and notes, after the manner of the classic authors in usum Delphini, was by the worthy editor, anno 1741, inscriled to his Royal Highness Prince George, as a proper book for his instruction in principles of piety, as well as knowledge of the Latin tongue, when he should arrive at due maturity of age. To restore this book to credit was the cause that induced me to engage in this disagreeable controversy, rather than any design to depreciate the just reputation of Milton,
But for the violation of truth, I offer no excuse, because I well know, that nothing can excuse it. Nor will I aggravate my crime, by disingenuous palliations. I confess it, I repent it, and resolve, that my first offence shall be my last. More I cannot perform, and more therefore cannot be required. I intreat the pardon of all men, whom I have by any means induced to support, to countenance, or patronise my frauds, of which I think myself obliged to declare, that not one of my friends was conscious. I hope to deserve, by better conduct and more useful undertakings, that patronage which I have obtained from the most illustrious and venerable names by misrepresentation and delusion, and to appear hereafter in such a character, as shall give you no reason to regret that your name is frequently mentioned with that of,
Dec, 20, 1750.
Your most humble servant,
A FREE E N 2 U I R Y*
NATURE AND ORIGEN OF EVIL.
THIS is a treatise consisting of Six Letters upon
1 a very difficult and important question, which I am afraid this author's endeavours will not free from the perplexity which has entangled the speculatists of all ages, and which must always continue while we see but in part. He calls it a Free Enquiry, and indeed his freedom is, I think, greater than his modesty. Though he is far from the contemptible arrogance, or the impious licentiousness of Bolingbroke, yet he decides too easily upon questions out of the reach of human determination, with too little consideration of mortal weakness, and with too much vivacity for the necessary caution.
* This “ Enquiry,” published in 1757, was the production of Soame Jenyns, Esq. who never forgave the author of the Review. It is painful to relate, that after he had suppressed his resentment during Dr. Johnson's life, he gave it vent in a petulant and illiberal mock-epitaph, which would not have deserved notice had it not been admitted into the edition of his works published by Mr. Cole. When this epitaph first appeared in the newspapers, Mr. Boswell answered it by another upon Mr. Jenyns, equal, at least, in illiberality
This Review is justly reckoned one of the finest specimens of criticism in our language, and was read with such eagerness when published in the Literary Magazine, that the author was induced to reprint it in a small volume by itself; a circumstance which appears to have escaped Mr. Boswell's research. C.
In In the first letter on Evil in general, he observes, that, “ it is the solution of this important question, “ whence came Evil, alone, that can ascertain the “ moral characteristick of God, without which there « is an end of all distinction between Good and « Evil.” Yet he begins this Enquiry by this declaration : “ That there is a Supreme Being, in“ finitely powerful, wise, and benevolent, the great “ Creator and Preserver of all things, is a truth so “ clearly demonstrated, that it shall be here taken “ for granted.” What is this but to say, that we have already reason to grant the existence of those attributes of God, which the present Enquiry is designed to prove? The present Enquiry is then surely made to no purpose. The attributes, to the demonstration of which the solution of this great question is necessary, have been demonstrated with. out any solution, or by means of the solution of some former writer.
He rejects the Manichean system, but imputes to it an absurdity, from which, amidst all its absurdities, it seems to be free, and adopts the system of Mr. Pope. " That pain is no evil, if asserted with “ regard to the individuals who suffer it, is down“ right nonsense; but if considered as it affects the “ universal system, is an undoubted truth, and “ means only that there is no more pain in it than
what is necessary to the production of happiness, “ How many soever of these evils then force them♡ selves into the creation, so long as the good pre“ ponderates, it is a work well worthy of infinite « wisdom and benevolence; and, notwithstanding “ the imperfections of its parts, the whole is most “ undoubtedly perfect.” And in the former part